Strategic pact vital step in US-Afghan ties
WASHINGTON (PAN): The proposed strategic partnership agreement between Afghanistan and the United States is an important step for future relationship of the two countries, the White House said Monday.
“We are closing in on finalising a strategic partnership agreement with the Afghan government, which is an important step towards the future for our involvement, for our drawing down of our forces and standing up of Afghan security forces as they take security lead in 2014, and in ensuring that we have a long-term partnership with the Afghan government,” the White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters.
Carney was responding to questions on agreement reached between the two countries in this regard.
“After much work together, we’re pleased that our negotiating teams have come to a common text to recommend to their respective governments. As is the case with all such agreements, both governments now have to review it, the text in interagency terms. We have to, on our side, have consultations with our Congress and the President has to make a final review,” the State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
Responding to questions, Nuland said the US has been telling the Afghan government and its allies on the need to ensure the Afghan forces take on lead responsibility for security around country, they are fully funded, fully equipped and have the ability to continue to train them.
“The Afghans themselves will contribute to those costs, but it’s going to take international support as well. We are talking to lots of countries about how they can help the Afghans foot the bill and the United States also will pay its fair share but I’m not going to get into numbers here today,” Nuland said.
Meanwhile, an eminent American expert said the SPA marks a breakthrough. “The agreement will both demonstrate to the Afghans that the US will remain committed to the country long after 2014 and provide a framework for the US to maintain a residual presence to train Afghan forces and conduct counterterrorism missions,” Lisa Curtis of Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think-tank said.
Concluding the SPA demonstrates the US will not abandon Afghanistan like it did in 1989, Curtis said it also spells out an important US red line to the Taliban, who have long called for expelling all foreign forces from the country.
“The question is whether the Taliban would agree to restart talks with the US in light of the agreement. From the US perspective, talks with the Taliban are desirable only if they result in ensuring that Afghanistan will never again become a base for international terrorists. For now, the US is better off focusing its resources on supporting anti-Taliban elements that share US goals in the region,” she said.
Curtis said the signing of the SPA before the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago in late May will help build confidence among the NATO allies and encourage them to make their own long-term commitments to Afghanistan.
While the SPA specifies neither future US funding amounts nor troop levels, it offers a broad U.S. commitment to support Afghanistan financially and to bolster democratic institutions and civil society through 2024, she noted.
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