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US to stay in Afghanistan

Ghani's government has signed the Bilateral Security Agreement which guarantees nearly 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Local media largely welcomed the signing of the agreement but highlighted the…
2.10.2014  |  Kabul
Wednesday's Afghan newspapers mainly dealt with the signing of the BSA. (Photo: Masood Momin. Main Photo: Office of the President of Afghanistan)
Wednesday's Afghan newspapers mainly dealt with the signing of the BSA. (Photo: Masood Momin. Main Photo: Office of the President of Afghanistan)

President Ashraf Ghani and the new government of Afghanistan have signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), ensuring a continued presence of US forces in the country beyond this year. The agreement was signed by incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah alongside NATO and US officials at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on September 29. It allows for nearly 10,000 US troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond this year and up until or beyond 2024. Ghani's government signed a similar agreement with NATO which will ensure member nations will provide in the region of 5,000 troops to support Afghan forces.

Basis for bilateral relationship

President Karzai had refused to sign the BSA, which outlines the conditions for US troops to remain in Afghanistan, despite a Loya Jirga approving the treaty in 2013. Karzai had objected to the immunity the deal offers US forces in Afghan courts alongside other extensive powers the treaty grants to the US military in Afghanistan. The new government however was widely expected to sign the agreement to ensure the continued economic and military support of the US and the international community in Afghanistan beyond 2014. The fact that it now has done so came as little surprise to seasoned observers.

Most media welcomed the decision but not without several rounds of heated debate. “The security forces of our country need the strategic support of NATO and the United States in their fight against the Taliban and for their mission,” wrote the editor of Hasht-e Subh, the country's most circulated daily, arguing that the delay in signing the agreement had hurt the economy and “created uncertainty.”

Jamay-e Baz, another daily, said the speed with which the new government signed the accord had brought “a wave of hope to the political and social environment of the country” which would pave the way for a stronger economic and security situation.

One nation's friend is another's enemy

Mandogar, a Dari-language daily, focused on the implications of the agreement for Afghanistan's neighbours. A continued US presence in the region could aggravate neighbouring countries, argues Mandogar, which in turn could alter the foreign policy of those countries towards Afghanistan.

Another daily struck a more cautious note of enthusiasm for the BSA. “There are still many challenges that have to be addressed through good policies and good management,” wrote Arman-e Milli on Wednesday September 30. Etla’at-e-Roz Daily welcomed Ghani's decision to sign the BSA as the treaty represents “a written and official commitment of the United States of America to the stability of Afghanistan.”

Round table discussions across Afghan networks focused on the implications of the Bilateral Security Agreement becoming part and parcel of the new government's approach. Daud Kalakani, an Afghan parliamentarian talking on Tolo TV, said the partnership agreement with the US “is absolutely necessary for stability, peace and the strengthening of Afghan security forces.” Not everybody agrees.

A few studios away on Kabul News, Peer Muhammad Rohani, a member of the High Peace Council, cast doubt on the improvement of the situation in Afghanistan after the signing of the BSA. “The United States will never put enough pressure on Pakistan to help bring peace to Afghanistan. There will be no peace in Afghanistan so long as the United States does not accomplish all its goals in Asian countries,” Rohani said.

"Much needed support for Afghan forces"

The director of Afghan NGO 'Civil Society Forum' Aziz Rafiee, talking on Metra TV, said the BSA “will not take anything off the shoulders of the government of Afghanistan” but rather help provide “much needed support for Afghan forces.” .

Ghulam Hussein Nassery and Fatima Aziz, both Afghan Parliamentarians talking on Ariana TV, agreed that the the signing of the BSA was necessary to ensure poorly equipped Afghan forces can continue to fight terrorism. The sentiment of relief was echoed across social media platforms. One Facebook user talked of having avoided “civil war.” Another Facebook member, John Muhammad Afzali, believes the BSA is vital to the progress of Afghanistan and wrote on his timeline: "If these troops had left Afghanistan, Afghanistan would have witnessed a time darker than the one under the Taliban.”