More than 30,000 US soldiers are to leave Afghanistan before the end of next year in keeping with a campaign trail promise by President Barack Obama.
Obama made the case to war-weary Americans on Wednesday for a phased withdrawal of American military forces.
Speaking at the White House, Obama said that Afghanistan no longer represented a terrorist threat to the United States, and announced the withdrawal of 10,000 troops by the end of the year. The remaining 20,000 troops from the 2009 surge would leave by next summer, which would amount to the pullback of about a third of the 100,000 troops now in the country.
The decision has won applause from America’s NATO allies, but NATO military experts are less enthusiastic warning that the quick withdrawal might be seen as a weakness on the part of the western coalition which, in turn, could lead to a new round of a power struggle in the country.
Western media is awash with comments, with some analysts saying that President Obama’s decision was dictated more by domestic considerations than security concerns because a majority of Americans are not happy about the dragged-out war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, The Times of Londonsays that NATO’s main goal in Afghanistan is to achieve a seamless transition from a military operation to a political settlement. Much is said about the situation being further complicated by the “incompetent and corrupt” nature of Hamid Karzai’s government and also the Afghan security forces’ inability to ensure law and order without outside help. Slated to take over security enforcement from the coalition in 2014, the Afghan police force and the local military are either corrupt or Taliban sympathizers” and even though their numbers are growing fast their quality remains much to be desired...
People in high places in Kabul disagree however with many in the top military brass arguing that the Afghan armed forces are fully equipped to fill the void left by the departing Americans.
Some Afghan experts believe that NATO is actually not going anywhere and point to the fact that the Afghan army is being left with little, if any, weapons to fight with.
"Ahmad Saidi, a Kabul-based political analyst, says that the Americans are not going to give any weapons to the Afghans. They have destroyed the good weapons we inherited from the Soviet Union, from Kalashnikov assault rifles to tanks, and have given us their own guns, which don’t fire... They don’t want Afghans to be able to defend themselves... The Americans have far-reaching plans to have their military bases all over here, to run this country and just about anyone else in the region..."
- The war in Afghanistan also contributes to an increasingly unstable Pakistan. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told the Guardian that the war is "destabilizing Pakistan and seriously undermining efforts to restore its democratic institutions and economic prosperity after a decade of military dictatorship."
Ahmad Saidi is echoed by Vyacheslav Belokrinitsky with the Institute of Oriental Studies think tank in Moscow.
"The pullout of 10,000 US troops this year will hardly change anything, because there will be 140,000 more staying on... As to the 23,000 they are going to move out next year, it is not really that much either... Which means that there will hardly be any turf war there, at least this year. Especially now that the Americans are already negotiating with the Taliban in a bid to ensure stability after the planned pullout..."
Earlier this week US Defense Secretary Robert Gates did confirm contacts with influential Taliban leaders, which focus on the black list of terrorists compiled by the UN Security Council and aim to separate al-Qaida from the Taliban. And take several influential Taliban leaders off that list altogether. The whole idea apparently appeals to President Hamid Karzai who sees this as a stepping stone to stability, says Afghan military observer Atikulla Barialai:
"Taking these people off the black list is part of the national reconciliation plan and gives the Taliban members a chance to join in... These people have stopped fighting a long time ago, many, like ex-minister Maulawi Kalamuddin, are now in Afghanistan and stay away from political and military action..."
In Washington, President Obama’s Afghan pullout plant is already taking flak from the Republicans and some big star generals too. And even from some in the Democratic camp, who say they are disappointed by what they describe as a generally “unconvincing” plan for the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
With America gearing up for next year’s presidential race it looks like the future of Afghans is being put on the back burner and there will hardly be any radical changes going to happen in Afghanistan, at least any time soon...