Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

U.S.-Afghan agreement: Issues to be addressed

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The draft strategic partnership agreement between the U.S. and Kabul to address their relationship after the completion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdrawal in 2014 has been arrived at after negotiations. The draft addresses the issues for ten years beyond 2014. A scrutiny of Afghan forces and the challenges they face highlights issues that merit inclusion in the agreement.

Currently, the ISAF has six regional commands including Kabul. These are the nerve centres from where operations are planned and conducted in respective regions. The ISAF needs to continue manning some of these headquarters, jointly with the Afghans, even after tactical operations are undertaken exclusively by Afghan forces. The headquarters located to oversee areas along the borders with Pakistan are more critical. Other headquarters may be downsized, or suitably merged and manned by Afghans alone. ISAF needs to also cater for adequate force levels being retained at critical headquarters to be able to decisively intervene should an adverse situation develop.

Afghans are divided along ethnic lines. Militaries have to owe allegiance to the central state authority. Afghan military leadership has not evolved from the rungs of professional soldiers. It accommodates political appointees. Further, Afghans are being trained by various armies thus injecting different cultures, tactics and drills. The price is paid in the area of cohesion. Americans will have to ensure that a professional officer cadre is raised in the years ahead and the armed forces emerge as a homogenous entity.

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