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Karzai, Obama to announce US troop levels for Afghanistan
Publication Date : 07-01-2013
US President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai are expected to announce new US troop levels in Afghanistan after their meeting at the White House later this week, official sources said.
President Karzai is arriving in Washington today for talks aimed at redefining Afghanistan’s relations with the US after 2014, when Washington plans to transfer all security responsibilities to Kabul.
Quoting Pentagon sources, the US media reported on Sunday that the US would like to maintain up to 30,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 as well to assist Afghan forces in security operations.
But it is not yet clear if the two countries have already agreed on a specific number or the decision will be finalised at a White House meeting between the two presidents later this week.
Last week, senior US military commanders in Afghanistan sent three options to the Obama administration—of keeping 6,000, 10,000 or 20,000 troops in that country after 2014.The first option has a high risk of failure, the second a medium risk of failure and the third has the minimum risk of failure.
The commanders argue that keeping 20,000 troops or more will ensure that Afghanistan remains a peaceful and stable country after 2014 as well while fewer troops may not be enough to provide the assistance the Afghans may need for maintaining security.
Afghanistan is still reluctant to accept a key US demand that American troops based there after 2014 be granted immunity from Afghan laws.
Afghanistan is also not satisfied with the pace of releasing Afghan detainees from the prisons that the Americans plan to vacate soon.
The Americans are not satisfied with the lack of governance and widespread corruption in Afghanistan. In their report to Washington, US commanders in Afghanistan also warned that America’s plan to stabilise the country may fail if the Afghan government does not improve its performance and does not curb corruption.
Officials in the Afghan capital have told the media that President Karzai will also share with US officials their worries about the American withdrawal plan, and about Pakistan and Pakistan-based Taliban leaders.
He will also seek US support for a comprehensive upgrading of Afghan security forces and police and providing new planes for the Afghan air force. The Afghans want the same F-16 planes that the United States has provided to Pakistan, although the Americans are reluctant to do so.
Reports in the US media claim that Karzai’s visit is also intended to send a message to both Pakistan and the Taliban.
Pakistanis are being told that the United States will go ahead with its plans for stabilising Afghanistan and they should back these efforts if they do not want to be isolated.
The message for the Taliban is that the US withdrawal does not mean end of its support to the Karzai government and if they want peace, they will have to negotiate it with Kabul.