Afghanistan and the U.S. agreed on a long awaited strategic partnership document dealing with the future relationship of the two countries after major troop withdrawals in 2014.
The bilateral pact, aiming at restore Afghan national sovereignty, is now “locked” says Karzai's spokesman Aimal Faizi, "this means the text is closed, and both sides will now review the document and do a final consultation. In the US it will go to the Houses of Congress and the President; in Afghanistan the President will consult with national leaders plus both Houses of Parliament."
The negotiations that lead to the agreement saw the Afghan government trying to obtain specific commitments from the U.S., in particular a transfer of authority over detainees and night raids. Two separate deals, signed over the period of a month, resulted in a six months handover of the main U.S prison, at Bagram Air Base, to Afghan forces, who are also slowly taking over the controversial night raids.
These two agreements opened the way to this final strategic partnership document, the final signature of which is to happen before May, when the NATO summit in Chicago will discuss the future funding to help Kabul’s finances and local military training.
U.S. officials involved in the negotiations said this strategic partnership agreement wasn’t meant to set exact rules but rather to establish a common future framework for the two countries. Meanwhile the Afghan government is demanding concrete commitments, repeatedly complaining of the lack of written agreements on future funding.
"They are providing us money; there is no doubt about that. But they say they will not mention the amount in the agreement. We say: give us less, but mention it in the agreement. Give us less but write it down" Karzai said in a recent speech. Afghan forces will need about $4 billion per year according to U.S. officials. Gavin Sundwall, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, declined to comment on the demand saying “We’re not going to comment on ongoing negotiations”.
The difference of opinions of the two governments resulted also in important questions being left aside, such as the long term role and status of U.S. troops after 2014 and their access to military bases, which will be discussed in separate deals before 2014.
This all comes at a time when U.S. budget cuts in domestic programs and a sluggish economy have already greatly reduced the money available for development programs in Afghanistan.
Ensuring stability in Afghanistan after the planned 2014 draw-down will be also discussed at the SDA upcoming event Investing in Afghanistan's future