White House talks yield no breakthrough
WASHINGTON (PAN): The White House meeting between US President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai was an important event to determine Afghanistan’s future direction, but there was no strategic breakthrough, former diplomats said Saturday.
“There was no strategic breakthrough,” former Afghan ambassador to the US, Said T Jawad, told Pajhwok Afghan News, a day after the Obama-Karzai meeting, following which the two addressed a joint news conference.
While the Obama administration brought on board the Karzai government on opening of the Taliban office in Doha, as part of the reconciliation process, Jawad said it also pushed the transition to spring and resolved the transfer of detainees’ issue.
“Before the trip also there was no plan to announce on the number of US troops that would remain in Afghanistan after 2014. President Obama shared his options with Karzai,” he said in response to a question.
He dismissed the impression the country was headed toward a period of uncertainty. “Security transition would have some challenges, but would be successful. We see a lot of positive developments,” said Jawad.
Omar Samad, the former Afghan ambassador to Canada and France, said: “Karzai and Obama may not have seen eye to eye on all issues, but they were able to achieve some of their respective objectives, and put bilateral relations back on track to a large extent during this important visit.”
Currently the Afghanistan senior expert in Residence at the US Institute of Peace, a Washington-based think-tank, Samad told Pajhwok Afghan News Obama could claim US troops would end their lead combat role sooner than expected, and maybe even dawn down at a faster pace, while Karzai can assure Afghans the US would respect their sovereignty.
“Both sides have even inferred that US troops might be granted immunity as part of a yet-to-be-determined residual force tasked to train Afghan forces and perform counter-terrorism operations.
“By agreeing to enhance mutual coordination and endorse the Qatar track to engage the Taliban, each side will be eager push for a political settlement by 2014 for their own respective reasons,” he said.
However, it remained unclear whether the uncertainty among Afghans about their future could be overcome by words of assurance alone or, more importantly, to what degree the Taliban and their regional backers would play a constructive role in ending the war, Samad remarked.
“A decision on the number of residual forces post-2014, as defined by President Obama, will be taken as part of the BSA (bilateral security agreement) talks. Anything below 7,000 would probably be not enough to accomplish those tasks, and might heighten the risks faced by Western forces on the ground,” Samad concluded.
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