U.S., Afghanistan Reach Pact on Post-Withdrawal Relations

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Afghan security forces arrive at the scene of an attack in Kabul on April 15, 2012. Explosions and gunfire rocked the Afghan capital Kabul on April 15, as suicide bombers struck across Afghanistan in coordinated attacks claimed by Taliban insurgents as the start of a spring offensive. AFP PHOTO/Massoud HOSSAINI (Photo credit should read MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)
A plan for after 2014. Photo: MASSOUD HOSSAINI/2012 AFP

Exhaustive negotiations between the U.S. and Afghanistan produced on Sunday a draft of a strategic partnership that would guarantee a U.S. presence in Afghanistan and financial support for a decade after formal combat troop withdrawal in 2014. The agreement still needs to be approved by officials on both sides.

“The document finalized today provides a strong foundation for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world, and is a document for the development of the region,” said Afghan national security adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta.

Text of the document has yet to be released but it reportedly covers social and economic development in Afghanistan, institution building, regional cooperation, and security. Though the agreement lacks specificity on items like the number of security troops the U.S. will maintain, it represents a broad commitment, both sides considering it more of a symbolic achievement. Not lost on negotiators was the difficultly of achieving a pact with repeated instances of outside strain, including the March killing of seventeen Afghan civilians by Army sergeant Robert Bales. Reports the Times:

In the midst of all these meteor strikes, we were able to still sit down across the table and get these documents agreed to,” one NATO official noted. Many Afghans, including some who are ambivalent about the American presence, believe that the country’s survival is tied to having such an agreement with Washington. They say it will make clear to the Taliban and to regional powers that the Americans will not walk away the way they did in the 1990s after the Soviets were pushed out of the country.

A total for the annual U.S. support to Afghanistan may reach the $2.5 billion range, possibly more. Compare that with the roughly $110 billion to $120 billion the U.S. has spent annually in Afghanistan since 2010.