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Afghanistan - U.S. Relations

The United States must ensure that Afghanistan, never-again, becomes a staging-ground for international terrorist attacks against the homeland. The attacks of September 11th 2001 emanated from this region, and 21 of the world’s 99 designated terrorist organizations remain there. The U.S. relationship with the Afghan Government ensures that host-nation leaders support U.S. security interests, and that the U.S. has an enduring capability to conduct counterterrorism operations. Finally, America must safeguard U.S. and NATO legitimacy against efforts to undermine Afghan progress from states such as Russia, Iran, and Pakistan.

The US spent $113 billion rebuilding Afghanistan through 2015, more than it spent rebuilding Europe after World War II, adjusted for inflation, John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, or SIGAR, told the U.S. Congress on 24 February 2016.

After the fall of the Taliban, the U.S. supported the emergence of a broad-based government, representative of all Afghans, and actively encouraged a UN role in the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan. The U.S. has made a long-term commitment to help Afghanistan rebuild itself after years of war. The U.S. and others in the international community currently provide resources and expertise to Afghanistan in a variety of areas, including humanitarian relief and assistance, capacity-building, security needs, counter-narcotic programs, and infrastructure projects.

During his December 1, 2009 speech at West Point, President Barack Obama laid down the core of U.S. goals in Afghanistan: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to Afghanistan. In June 2011, President Obama announced that the United States would remove 10,000 of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2011 and a total of 33,000 troops by the summer of 2012, fully recovering a surge in personnel that he had announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, U.S. troops are to continue the phased drawdown at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. By 2014, this transition process will be complete, and Afghanistan will be responsible for its own security.

While the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan is transitioning primary security responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces, the United States plans to remain politically, diplomatically, and economically engaged in Afghanistan for the long term. A Strategic Partnership Declaration between the United States and Afghanistan will solidify the long-term partnership. The United States fully supports the ambitious agenda set out by the Afghan president, focusing on reintegration, economic development, improving relations with Afghanistan’s regional partners, and steadily increasing the security responsibilities of Afghan security forces. Rapid progress on this agenda is important and requires international support. Toward this end, the U.S. is encouraging the Afghan Government to take strong actions to combat corruption and improve governance, and to provide better services for the people of Afghanistan, while maintaining and expanding on the important democratic reforms and advances in women’s rights that have been made since 2001.

Widespread protests and political fallout from the burning of Korans by International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel at Bagram Air Force Base in February 2012 and the killings of 17 civilians allegedly by a U.S. soldier in Kandahar in March strained U.S.-Afghan relations.

In April 2012 Afghanistan and the United States finalized a strategic partnership agreement outlining their relationship following the 2014 withdrawal of Western combat troops from the country. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed the strategic partnership agreement at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, 02 May 2012.

The deal insures American military and financial support for the Afghan people for at least a decade beyond 2014, the deadline for most foreign combat forces to withdraw. Beyond 2014, the United States shall seek funds, on a yearly basis, to support the training,equipping, advising, and sustaining of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), so that Afghanistan can independently secure and defend itself against internal and external threats, and help ensure that terrorists never again encroach on Afghan soil and threaten Afghanistan,the region, and the world. Afghanistan will provide US forces continued access to and use of Afghan facilities through 2014, and beyond as may be agreed in the Bilateral Security Agreement, for the purposes of combating al-Qaeda and its affiliates, training the Afghan National Security Forces, and other mutually determined missions to advance shared security interests. U.S. officials say Washington intends to maintain civilian economic assistance at current levels of between $1-billion and $2-billion a year beyond 2014 with the expectation that Afghans follow through on improvements in accountability and good governance.

In July 2012 the Obama administration named Afghanistan a Major Non-NATO Ally -- a designation that makes it easier for countries to join in military training and acquire and finance U.S. weapons systems. While much of that is already expedited through the international security force here, Secretary Clinton says the designation is a "powerful symbol" of the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan's future following the scheduled departure of foreign troops in 2014.

President Hamid Karzai said if the United States wants to leave Afghanistan it “can do it even today, may God be with them”, but he will not back down from his conditions to sign a key security pact with Washington that would allow American forces to stay in the country beyond December 2014. Washington needed the so-called bilateral security agreement (BSA) to be in place. A traditional national assembly of Afghan elders and politicians also endorsed the security pact 24 November 2013. But President Hamid Karzai since refused to sign the deal until the US military ends raids against Afghan homes while chasing insurgents and helps Kabul in opening peace talks with the Taliban. Karzai said the winner of that country's presidential election in April 2014 should sign the agreement.

In an article published 28 January 2014 by The Washington Post, unnamed senior Afghan officials said Afghan President Karzai has a list of "dozens of attacks" he believes the U.S government may have been involved in an attempt to weaken him and foment instability in the country. US ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham is quoted in the article as describing the allegations as "deeply conspiratorial" and "divorced from reality". The Washington Post said the unnamed officials provided no evidence of any US role in the attacks, which included an assault of a Justice Ministry building and another on a courthouse in western Farah province. The officials said some of the attacks may have been carried out to distract attention from an airstrikes in other areas. The article said the Taliban has claimed responsibility for many of the attacks on the list and have disputed the claims of possible U.S. involvement. The newspaper said the Afghan government has often dismissed their claims, instead blaming "foreign intelligence services."

Many like Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, former Afghan Prime Minister [1995 to 1996] who received 0.80% of the vote in the 2004 Presidential election, believe a key to post-war peace is the complete departure of foreign troops. “The foreign forces must withdraw -- no option of being in Afghanistan because we strongly believe as far as the ISAF and American forces are in Afghanistan there will no peace at all. Afghans who are real, sincere followers of jihad they are fighting the invaders those who have invaded our country. Americans, they are the occupiers. This is wrong that they have come to promote democracy and justice and so on. These are all wrong slogans,” said Ahmadzai.

On 21 August 2017, President Donald Trump announced the Administration’s strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia. President Trump said a “fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome” in Afghanistan. He acknowledged that “nobody knows if or when” a political settlement with the Taliban might occur. Additionally, President Trump described a new approach to Pakistan, saying “we can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.” President Trump also announced that the U.S. will further develop its strategic partnership with India. While President Trump said that “conditions on the ground—not arbitrary timetables—will guide our strategy from now on,” he also called on the Afghan government to produce “real reforms, real progress, and real results,” saying “our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check.”

The Taliban faced a greater challenge in motivating their fighters following the U.S. move from a time-based to conditions-based strategy for Afghanistan.



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