WASHINGTON: A newly signed agreement for strategic partnership between the United States and Afghanistan allows the US long-term involvement in Afghanistan’s security but ignores President Hamid Karzai’s demand for greater control over its military operations in his country.
Details of the agreement, released in Washington on Tuesday, reveal that the US will have continued access to military facilities in Afghanistan as “may be mutually determined.”
American access to these facilities was necessary for the US forces to “help organize, train, equip, and sustain Afghan security forces” according to the joint declaration of the “US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership.”
Most of the US troops in Afghanistan are either based at Bagram airbase north of Kabul or at Kandahar airbase, which the US uses to launch raids against insurgents still active in the south and east of the country.
The US also has an operating base at the old Soviet airport of Shindand in the western province of Herat near the Iranian border and a forward operating base at Salerno in the southeast of the country, not far from Pakistan.
The US President George W Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed the agreement at the White House on Monday which also requires the United States to provide long-term economic assistance to Afghanistan.
Since bringing down the Taliban in 2001, Washington has maintained more than 18,000 troops which are fighting against remnants of the Taliban and their allies.
Mr Karzai has been a key advocate for a permanent security relationship with the United States but had stopped short of calling for full-time American bases, a sensitive topic in the war-shattered country.
The key points of the strategic partnership include:
The US military forces operating in Afghanistan will continue to have access to the key Bagram Air Base and its facilities, and facilities at other locations as “may be mutually determined.”
The US and coalition forces will “continue to have the freedom of action required to conduct appropriate military operations based on consultations and pre-agreed procedures.”
American access to Bagram base is necessary for the US forces to “help organize, train, equip, and sustain Afghan security forces as Afghanistan develops the capacity to undertake this responsibility.”
There will be consultations “with respect to taking appropriate measures in the event Afghanistan perceives that its territorial integrity, independence, or security is threatened or is at risk.”
The pact “is not directed against any third country.”
The US will continue to assist the Afghan government in security sector reform, continue counter-terrorism operations with Afghan forces, support coalition assistance to Kabul’s counter-narcotics programs.
Continue intelligence sharing, strengthen Afghanistan’s ties with NATO, support border security initiatives. - Support democratic good governance and the development of civil society based on the rule of law and human rights and encourage broad-based political participation in Afghanistan.
Support Afghanistan’s initiative to restore the country’s historic role as a land bridge connecting Central and South Asia and to “shift the pattern of regional relations from rivalry to economic and political cooperation.” - Foster cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours and “deter meddling in its internal affairs.”
Help develop a legal and institutional framework for a thriving private sector and an environment favourable to international investment in Afghanistan.