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The Killid Group
US blinks on partnership treatyWritten by Mohammad Reza Gulkohi
Sunday, 18 March 2012 09:29
The US has met one of two preconditions set by President Hamid Karzai for the signing of any deal governing Afghan-US relations after NATO combat troops pull out in 2014.
The prison at Bagram is to be put under Afghan control gradually over six months.
The second sticking point - a halt to night raids by foreign troops - remains, but according to statements from the president's office negotiations are proceeding well, and the contours of a final partnership treaty may emerge before the May meeting in Chicago of NATO countries to discuss plans to turn over Afghan security to Afghan forces. US President Barack Obama had called for the meeting in his hometown last June - an event which is being seen as a follow-up to the meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, in December 2010.
Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasool told Killid that he was confident the US and Afghanistan would reach an agreement on calling a halt to the night raids. The US military has consistently backed the raids, saying it has been successful in curbing the insurgency, and eliminating rebel leaders. The question now is who will blink first?
On Mar. 8, at a ceremony to mark International Women's Day, President Karzai assured his people of the international community's continued support for Afghanistan after the handover of security to Afghan security forces in 2014.
Every Afghan citizen is concerned Afghanistan could slide back to the lawlessness of the nineties, when warring sides killed and maimed tens of thousands. A strong US-Afghan strategic partnership treaty would be effective in ensuring stability and preserving the gains of the past decade, according to political experts Killid talked to.
Mahmood Saikal, a political analyst said: "The signing of this document is important for both sides and secures the national interests of both. But ambiguities over details in the document have not been cleared." He feels there is pressure to finalise the deal before the Chicago meeting also because the US' allies will want to scrutinise the document to be able to negotiate their relations with Kabul after the pullout. Even though each country may have its own ideas for a future role in Afghanistan, the US-Afghan strategic treaty will provide guidelines, he believes.
General Atiqullah Amarkhail (retired), a military expert, says any future strategic agreement must guarantee the country's stability, and secure commitment for equipping the ANA (Afghan National Army). The accord should ensure Afghan security forces have the capacity to combat the government's opponents, he says.
Why is the government insisting on these two preconditions?
Karzai has made the demands in the name of Afghan sovereignty. At the Loya Jirga in November last year he had said there would be no pact with the US unless Bagram was handed over to Afghan security forces and night raids were stopped. Some 3,200 Afghan prisoners - suspected Taliban insurgents - are detained by US forces at the Parwan prison at the US-controlled Bagram air base.
Observers, however, feel the Afghan leadership is delaying signing the treaty only to secure support for itself from the US after 2014.
Abdul Ghafoor Lewal, a political analyst thinks if the government fails to include the conditions in the final draft of an agreement with the US, it will stand to lose the respect of its people and Karzai the people's trust. The Loya Jirga had ratified 75 conditions.
Lewal says both countries have to negotiate an agreement that assures them their national interest.
Yet Saikal, a political analyst, sees the preconditions as contradicting Afghanistan's commitments made in Lisbon. Kabul assured the international community a military role in Afghanistan till the end of 2014. This would allow them to carry out night raids and air attacks.
It is obvious that both will stop post-2014 since Afghan security forces do not have the ability for either.
Meanwhile, the mood is celebratory following the inking of the agreement to hand over Bagram to Afghanistan. Nazeer Ahmad Hanfi, a Member of Parliament (MP) says, "Making it the responsibility of the government creates a belief in the public that the government has the ability to defend its territorial integrity." The prison at Bagram has been regularly criticized for failing to comply with international norms of human rights.
Shamsullah Ahmadzai, head of the regional office of AIHRC (Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission) says: "We hope the government of Afghanistan is aware of and consider itself responsible and obliged to respect the rights of Bagram prisoners."