Officials from Afghanistan and the United States on Tuesday signed a long-delayed security agreement to allow American troops to stay in the country after the end of the year, filling a campaign promise by new President Ashraf Ghani.
National security adviser Hanif Atmar and US Ambassador James Cunningham signed the bilateral security agreement (BSA) in a televised ceremony at the presidential palace, one day after Ghani was inaugurated. “As an independent country ... we signed this agreement for stability, goodwill, and prosperity of our people, stability of the region and the world,” Ghani said in a speech after the signing.
Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, had long refused to agree to the deal, souring his ties with the United States. Karzai cited his anger over civilian deaths and his belief that the war was not fought in the interests of his country.
US President Barack Obama, in a statement, said the pact reflected America’s continued support for Afghanistan’s unity government. “We look forward to working with this new government to cement an enduring partnership
that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability, unity, and prosperity, and that contributes to our shared goal of defeating al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates,” he said.
Cunningham said the pact showed the United States remained committed to Afghanistan, where foreign forces have helped provide security since the 2001 toppling of the Taliban government over its sheltering of planners of the Sept 11 attacks.
“It is a choice by the United States to continue cooperating with our Afghan partners on two important security missions: training and equipping Afghan forces and supporting cooperation against terrorism,” Cunningham said.
Minutes after the security pact was signed, a similar agreement with Nato was ratified to allow the alliance’s European members to contribute to a residual foreign force.
Ghani said in his speech that the agreement did not compromise Afghanistan’s sovereignty and that either side has the right to withdraw from the pact within two years. “The right to use force will be based on decisions by the Afghan government,” Ghani said. “Our air space will be under our own control. International forces will not be able to enter mosques or other holy sites.”
Under the agreement, 12,000 foreign military personnel are expected to stay after 2014, when the combat mission of Afghanistan’s US-led Nato force ends. The force is expected to be made up of 9,800 US troops with the rest from other Nato members. They will train and assist Afghan security forces in the war against the Taliban and its radical Islamist allies.
The US has the right to keep bases in Afghanistan as long as the security pact is in force, and in return it promises to raise funds to train and equip the Afghan security forces, which now number 350,000.
The Taliban have denounced the pact with the United States and repeated that on Tuesday, calling it a ‘sinister’ plot by the United States to control Afghanistan and restore its international credibility as a military superpower.
“Under the name of the security agreement, today Americans want to prepare themselves for another non-obvious and very dangerous fight,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a Pashto-language statement emailed to the media.
“With their bulk of artifices and deceptions they want to hoodwink the people. They think that the Afghan people do not know about their conspiracies and their sinister goals.”
“We will try in Sharia court and punish all those who have signed the BSA as we had done with such people in the past,” Mujahid said. “The American servants who have signed the BSA have been exposed to the Afghan nation as they acted like American-paid employees.”
He said signing of the BSA would not stop the Taliban from their ‘sacred jihad’ as they would fight until all Americans and foreigners withdraw from Afghanistan.
Ashraf Ghani did not bother to address the sensitivity in Afghanistan and outside the country regarding the BSA and quickly signed the deal while acting as a ‘US official’, Mujahid said. “Those who have signed and supported the pact will be remembered as slaves in Afghan history,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2014.
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They will stay and their drones target the taliban permanently