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Senators differ over long-term US military presence

Senators differ over long-term US military presence

Mar 08, 2011 - 18:04

KABULinfo-icon (PANinfo-icon): Senators in the upper house of Parliament on Tuesday disagreed over the long-term presence of the US military, with some saying it was necessary to protect Afghanistaninfo-icon and others saying it would increase civilian casualties.

About two months ago, President Hamid Karzai publicly stated that the US was seeking permanent bases in Afghanistan. However, the Obama administration's point man for Afghanistan and Pakistaninfo-icon, Marc Grossman, on Saturday said the US had no desire for a long-term military presence in the country.

Karzai has said national institutions, such as the Meshrano Jirgainfo-icon (upper house) and Wolesi Jirgainfo-icon (lower house), had the right to decide on the proposed military bases.

If US soldiers leave, neighbouring countries would try to plunder Afghanistan, Nazar Mohammad, a senator, said in Tuesday's session of the house.

"Despite the presence of foreign soldiers, neighbouring countries still have meddled in all our internal affairs. If the foreigners leave, the situation will get worse," he said.

Since Iran and Pakistan had sophisticated weapons, they could easily attack Afghanistan if there were no NATOinfo-icon or US soldiers to protect them, Munshi Ismail, another senator, said.

The presence of US soldiers also could affect development in various sectors, he said, without elaborating.

However, senator Sayed Farkh Shah Janab, said the presence of foreigners should first be legitimised, and then the issue of a long-term military presence could be discussed.

"In some places we have been shamed because of these Americans," he said, calling for a decision to be made not on emotional grounds.

Bilqis Roshan, a female senator, said that if the US military remained, the number of civilian casualties would rise.

The presence of the US and NATO-allied military forces was never in the interest of Afghans, instead it was at the behest of some "pro-Americans" she said.  "Any decision should be in favour of ordinary Afghans," she said.

However, a senator from Khost, Arifullah Pashtuninfo-icon, said it was too early to discuss a long-term military presence. When the issue was officially put before the Meshrano Jirga than a poll should be set up for its approval.

Second secretary of the Senate, Mohammad Alam Ezidyar, however disagreed. He said foreigners had come to Afghanistan for their own benefit and a decision must be taken.

"Now there is a need for us to discuss how Afghanistan will benefit from the presence of foreigners," he said. He said a traditional Loya Jirgainfo-icon should make the decision.



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