Southwest Asia

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Conflicting narratives regarding the future of international forces in Afghanistan



 While Hamid Karzai insists that his police and military forces are prepared for the early withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan, the United States and NATO have outlined plans to extend troop presence past the 2014 deadline.


 Recently, U.S. and Afghan negotiators met in Kabul to talk about the Bilateral Security Agreement that will govern the extension of U.S. troops past 2014.

NATO’s combat troops are also scheduled to leave the country by the end of 2014, but President Hamid Karzai says Afghanistan’s police and military forces are ready to take full responsibility for security if the U.S.-led coalition decides to pull out of the country early.

The Afghan army has grown to 184,676 soldiers, and the police force now numbers 146,339 officers — putting them just short of the planned number of 352,000 members. But critics say the rapid expansion has not significantly improved their ability to plan and conduct operations without support from foreign forces in terms of logistics, air support and medical evacuations. Afghan and U.S.-led forces continue to face strong resistance in the southern and eastern sections of the country, where the Taliban and their affiliates have carried out a string of attacks on coalition and Afghan bases in recent months.

Furthermore, the number of Afghans leaving the army has remained stubbornly high, with 27 percent of troops either deserting or not re-enlisting despite the higher salaries offered. Now at its biggest size yet, the Afghan Army is so plagued with desertions and low re-enlistment rates that it has to replace a third of its entire force every year, officials say.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reiterated NATO’s commitment to Afghanistan beyond 2014, emphasizing that NATO desires a continuing foreign presence for advising the Afghans after the withdrawal of combat troops.

For all the eagerness of the United States and NATO to maintain a presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Hamid Karzai seems just as eager to eradicate all foreign presence from Afghanistan. In addition to his insistence that Afghan troops and police forces are prepared for early NATO withdrawal, he recently warned that no foreign advisors should be appointed to Afghanistan’s Election Complaints Commission, a stance likely to antagonize the international community. Hamid Karzai has vowed that he will not run for president in 2014.


[-] There appears to be unspoken tension between President Hamid Karzai and the leaders of U.S. and NATO operations, whose views on the future of international presence in Afghanistan are at odds. While this tension does not greatly affect current relations and negotiations between Karzai, the US, and NATO, it should not be discounted—especially as the 2014 deadline for troop withdrawal draws closer.

[-] Despite robust enlistment, the Afghan army’s problem with troop attrition is a severe hindrance to its effectiveness, especially in the Taliban-saturated areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan. Continued US and NATO involvement after 2014 could provide logistical support and training to the Afghan army, but the nature and extent of that involvement will depend heavily on the victor of Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential elections.


Previous Analysis October 2012 >> Growing Anti-US Sentiment in Pakistan, What Does it Mean?


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