Afghan President Hamid Karzai has paid a three-day official visit to Washington, D.C. last month with Afghan delegates. The Obama-Karzai meeting was the first one since they got together in Chicago for the NATO Summit in May 2012. President Obama has avoided meddling with the politics of war in Afghanistan during the U.S. presidential election process and has not told anything new while only taking steps in accordance with the decisions taken at the summit.
One of the decisions that were made in this summit was that all combat troops of the United States and NATO countries would be withdrawn by the end of 2014. At the same time, even though the general framework of the progress for the next two-years has been decided, the details were left to be clarified later. The Obama-Karzai meeting was of great importance in this respect.
President Karzai, who has led Afghanistan for more than ten years and is constitutionally barred from running for another term in the upcoming Afghan presidential election which will be held in April 2014, had a chance to exchange ideas in regard to his last fifteen month policy implementation. He also spoke out the expectations of Afghan people and Afghan government from the United States.
The details of the Bilateral Security Agreement, which was previously signed by Obama and Karzai, was discussed during the meetings as well. Following the bilateral negotiations, they have made a joint press statement in which they painted a very promising picture. This-very-optimistic-picture is the biggest disadvantage at ensuring success of the goals especially during the process until the end of 2014.
The death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had affected President Obama’s public support for the Afghan war that fell to twenty-five percent in the recent months. To this respect, Afghan war was not among the top priorities of the presidential election process agenda. Losing the support of its citizens, Barack Obama aimed to withdraw remaining 66,000 troops more quickly. Thus, in his annual State of the Union address to Congress on February 12, Obama announced that 34,000 U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan over the next year.
Before rushing into giving irrevocable decisions, Obama should lend an ear to the former top commander of American forces in Afghanistan Stanley A. McChrystal. In a recent interview, General McChrystal has advised that the United States still needs to keep forces in Afghanistan to help the stabilization of the country and the region. “If we allow Afghanistan to become completely unstable, Pakistan’s stability is really difficult,” he said. Gen. McChrystal also disagrees with the analysts who propose that the U.S. should stay in Afghanistan with small number of troops to launch raids on Al-Qaeda by arguing that counterterrorism operations should be carried out together with counterinsurgency efforts.
It is understandable that the U.S. President Obama does not consider the Afghan war as a “war of necessity” anymore. The White House is considering leaving 3,000 to 9,000 troops behind after 2014. Obama is planning to withdraw the U.S. troops faster than the recommendations of the commanders who served in the field.
Afghanistan might have the most advanced, most democratic, most secure and most prosperous era in the last 35 years of its modern history –which is definitely disputable–; however, the gains are at risk and still remain fragile and reversible. Consequently, the United States is still the essential figure regarding the successful completion of the transition process as well as the stability and prosperity of the region in the post-2014 era.