Implications of US-Afghanistan strategic agreement
Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
Whereas, some analysts believe that the recently concluded Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between Afghanistan and United States is a clear message for Pakistan and Taliban that US is not going to leave Afghanistan and the region. The anti-Pakistan, US lawmaker, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, remarked about the agreement that it is a clear confession by US that it did not work for the Afghan nation building in last over a decade, since it is occupying that country.
Mr Rohrabacher said that "one of the reasons we are in bad shape and have lost so many people already, is we have imported combat troops to try to force local people to accept Kabul as the legitimate power. And Kabul, of course, is run by a corrupt regime under Karzai."
The 'enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America was signed on May 1, in the fortified Afghan palace at capital Kabul by US President Barack Hussain Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Owing to the security reasons, the ceremony was kept highly secret and signing on the agreement was done at night during six hours Afghan visit of President Obama. From the US perspective, the agreement aims at assuring Afghanistan that "NATO and its partners cannot and will not abandon Afghanistan after 2014. Our ongoing support will be essential to preserving and building on the gains we've made thus far."
Being the main opposition group, fighting against US occupation, the Taliban has rejected the agreement and vowed to continue their struggle until the eviction of foreign troops from Afghan soil. In a statement Taliban said that "in response to this illegal document, the Islamic Emirate, being a justified representative of Afghan nation, would continue armed jihad with full force till the complete ouster of occupation forces and their puppets from Afghanistan. The Islamic Emirate considers the head of the Kabul puppet regime as a powerless servant of Americans and their invaders and considers all kinds of their agreements with their masters as selling the territorial and national integrity of the country."
The provisions and the timings of the agreement reveal that US is going to stay in Afghanistan and would use this agreement as an excuse to pursue its long-term agendas and objectives in this part of the world. In this connection, it is essential to revisit the primary objectives of US invasion in Afghanistan, following the incident of 9/11. At that time United States sought killing of Osama Bin Laden and destroying al-Qaeda network, the factors US declared were behind the 9/11. In November 2010, Defence Secretary Panetta, then Director of CIA, announced that US has destroyed the al-Qaeda network and a maximum of 50-100 operatives could be present along Pak-Afghan border, which must have been eliminated by now through ground and drone attacks since then.
Defence Secretary Panetta was very categorical in his assessment that bulk of al-Qaeda operatives has moved to Middle East and Africa, where they have made their hideouts and are fuelling insurgencies in various countries. Even US and some Middle Eastern countries have claimed killing of many al-Qaeda operatives in these countries since then. Therefore, practically, al-Qaeda should not be an excuse for the US to continue its presence there, until 2014. Then, still there are two and half years to the stated dead line (December 2014) for the draw-down of ISAF from Afghanistan, as agreed during Lisbon Summit in November 2010. After all US and ISAF are still continuing with the military and intelligence operations against their opponents in Afghanistan.
The second and the biggest basis for the US invasion of Afghanistan was the arrest or killing of OBL. This noteworthy objective of the US too was achieved on May 2, 2011, after OBL was killed and his body taken away by US Navy SEALs, in inequitous Abbottabad raid. After the fulfilment of the raison d'괲e of the Afghan war, the logical approach for the US should have been to gradually pull out its forces, to give an opportunity to Afghan people for making decision for their future course of action without any foreign influence. However, this did not happen and exactly one year after the killing of OBL, and two years after announcing that al-Qaeda is almost dying from Afghanistan, US-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement is beyond the comprehension of a common Afghan citizen. Even President Hamid Karzai and his administration were not very keen and have delayed the finalization of this agreement for quite some time, until forced upon.
Then, President Obama after the signing of the SPA said that "neither Afghans nor Americans asked for this war." Indeed, during his presidential campaign, Obama promised American people to concentrate on economic betterment of US and creation of job opportunities for Americans by cutting the military spending over the overseas military operations, Afghanistan being the major one. In fact Obama did try, but, the powerful Pentagon and even powerful CIA did not let that happen, once he first time announced pullout schedule in December 2009. It is unclear as to how much would be the force level of US after 2014, under the SPA, but, it is unambiguous that US has expended over 80 per cent of its total expenditures in Afghanistan for the construction of its strong military bases in that country in last one decade. These fortified military bases are clear indication that US had no intention of going back from Afghanistan and the region.
After the signatures, President Obama said that US has no intention of keeping permanent military bases in Afghanistan. Apparently; the objectives of the agreement would be; promotion of democratic values, advancing Long-Term Security, socio-economic development and improving Afghan governance. US forces in Afghanistan would be training the Afghan security forces besides eliminating the remnants of al-Qaeda. US would give Afghanistan, the status of a "major non-NATO ally" to provide a long-term framework for security and defence cooperation. Nevertheless, these are the apparent clauses for the appeasement of Afghan masses. The fact is that this planned, prolonged and renewed US military presence in Afghanistan through SPA, would have long-term implications for the region in general and Pakistan and Afghanistan in particular.
Iran has already rejected it and considers it as US long-term imperialism in Afghanistan and region. Besides, China, Russia, and Central Asian States have their reservations too. For Afghanistan, SPA has a clear message that there would be a state of instability in this war-ravaged country, at least till 2024, if not more. The logic for this state of war is that, in no case, Taliban and other anti-US elements would concede to the SPA, which Afghans consider as a continuation of their subjugation for an indefinite period. Thus, they would resist it by all means, physical fighting through insurgency being the pronounced method, as being practised since the last one decade. It is evident that Afghan society should face a continuous state of war and instability in the days to come.
For Pakistan, SPA would mean a constant US pressure and successive accusations, as a routine, being practised ever since 2001. US has already indicated that it would continue CIA driven drone attacks in Pakistan, which is a clear indication that Pakistani sovereignty would be constantly ruined in the days to come, at least till 2024. Now Pakistan has to analyze, what option it has to avoid the consequences of prolonged US stay in its neighbourhood under SPA. To a common Pakistani as well as for the realists-loyalists, Pakistan has to gradually reduce and bring an end to the economic and military dependency over United States. Personal gains and relationships would have to be scarificed over the national interests and for the secure and better future of Pakistan and its 180 million people. Economic betterment and awareness through education for its masses across the board has to be ensured by the governments. Under the current scenario, this is the only and most logical recipe for the Government of Pakistan to follow.