Obama's address could be momentous for Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (PAN): The annual State of the Union Address by US President Barack Obama, could turn out to be “momentous” for Afghanistan if he goes ahead with his plans to announce the pace of a drawdown of troops before 2014 and the post-2014 presence in the country.
“The United States and all ISAF partners are currently considering the post-2014 troop levels in Afghanistan. In addition, they are deciding what pace the drawdown will take. Both of these decisions and the announcement of figures tomorrow will be momentous for Afghanistan and its people,” former ambassador to the US, Said T Jawad, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
Informed Afghan sources, who were briefed by the White House ahead of the president’s address to the Congress on Tuesday night (early Wednesday morning Kabul time), told PAN that the number of US troops post -2014 is expected to be ranging between 3,000 and 9,000. Simultaneously, Obama could seek a commitment for an equal number of troops from NATO and other ISAF countries.
While Obama is yet to take a final decision, it is understood that he is weighing more in favour of the lowest troops (3,000 to 9,000) option recommended by General John Allen, who as commander of the US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, submitted his recommendations to the White House last month. Allen handed over his command to General Joseph Dunford on Sunday.
Jawad said that the number of coalition forces left in Afghanistan post-2014 will impact the security transition, the upcoming elections, and any potential reconciliation with the Taliban and other opposition groups. “We Afghans need to pay close attention to this process and adjust our preparations and responses appropriately,” he said.
On post-2014, US made commitments at Lisbon and Chicago and in the SPA, and the US needs to live up to those commitments, he said. “The US has said that its troop numbers will be modest, but meaningful. Meaningful is only possible if Afghanistan is able to meet its side of the commitment,” he added.
“In 2013, ANSF will be in the lead across the country and the US will reduce its troops substantially over the next year. While Afghan people have sacrificed greatly over the last ten years as well, I do not believe we have taken full advantage of the presence of our international partners,” said Jawad, who is the founder and president of the Washington-based Foundation for Afghanistan.
“We did not fully take advantage of the security, political, and economic support to pave a sustainable Afghan way forward. As we get closer to 2014, we are realizing that Afghans may not be ready to fill the vacuum in 2015 and beyond,” he said.
“We failed to define a national narrative that can bind Afghans together in support of our central government, and against insurgents. Rather many Afghans feel increasingly insecure, and are also worried that many of the opportunities of the last ten years will disappear once the US and other partners pull out,” he said.
Arguing that there is no solution on the battlefield, Jawad said Afghans must find a political solution to the violence so political and economic development can continue. “Now is the time to talk about ending the violence,” he said.
Unaware of the decision that could be announced by Obama Tuesday, Jawad said whatever the numbers may be post-2014, the US troops will be there to help Afghans, not to do their jobs. “We must realize that we have less than two years to take advantage of this support as much as we can and get ready to take the lead,” he said.
“Much of the country is already transitioning but there is still insecurity and violence. Let us recommit to building a national narrative for stability and against insurgency in the next two years. Additionally, if we are to prevent the balkanization of Afghanistan, we must work hard to create a positive national pan-ethnic pan-linguistic identity and narrative. We need to polish our Afghan nationalism so that we can take the security, political, and economic lead come 2015,” Jawad said.
“Additionally, we must show our international partners that we are worthy partners such that other countries come back to Afghanistan not for fear of war, but for positive economic and political opportunities. Let our political and economic and social transitions be so positive that they drown out the security transition,” Jawad said in his exclusive interview to PAN.
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