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With Pact, U.S. Agrees to Help Afghans for Years to Come

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/world/asia/us-and-afghanistan-reach-partnership-agreement.html
April 22, 2012
With Pact, U.S. Agrees to Help Afghans for Years to Come
By ALISSA J. RUBIN [Afghanistan] [AfPak] [Obama’s “surge” continues] [after “surge” has success around Kandahar, insurgency strikes back?] [a look into how the very nature of America’s presence in Afghanistan is changing rapidly] [the spring fighting season has recently begun again] [sounds like some excellent progress has been made on the status of forces agreement (SOFA)] [followup] [first reported yesterday; today, a few new details] [it’s still just understanding with neither Karzai nor Obama having approved draft] [*]
KABUL, Afghanistan — After months of negotiations, the United States and Afghanistan completed drafts of a strategic partnership agreement on Sunday that pledges American support for Afghanistan for 10 years after the withdrawal of combat troops at the end of 2014.
The agreement, whose text was not released, represents an important moment when the United States begins the transition from being the predominant foreign force in Afghanistan to serving a more traditional role of supportive ally. [*]
By broadly redefining the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States, the deal builds on hard-won new understandings the two countries reached in recent weeks on the

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/world/asia/us-and-afghanistan-reach-partnership-agreement.html
April 22, 2012
With Pact, U.S. Agrees to Help Afghans for Years to Come
By ALISSA J. RUBIN [Afghanistan] [AfPak] [Obama’s “surge” continues] [after “surge” has success around Kandahar, insurgency strikes back?] [a look into how the very nature of America’s presence in Afghanistan is changing rapidly] [the spring fighting season has recently begun again] [sounds like some excellent progress has been made on the status of forces agreement (SOFA)] [followup] [first reported yesterday; today, a few new details] [it’s still just understanding with neither Karzai nor Obama having approved draft] [*]
KABUL, Afghanistan — After months of negotiations, the United States and Afghanistan completed drafts of a strategic partnership agreement on Sunday that pledges American support for Afghanistan for 10 years after the withdrawal of combat troops at the end of 2014.
The agreement, whose text was not released, represents an important moment when the United States begins the transition from being the predominant foreign force in Afghanistan to serving a more traditional role of supportive ally. [*]
By broadly redefining the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States, the deal builds on hard-won new understandings the two countries reached in recent weeks on the thorny issues of detainees and Special Operations raids. It covers social and economic development, institution building, regional cooperation and security.
The talks to reach the agreement were intense. At times they broke down altogether, primarily because of geopolitical frictions in the region from two powerful neighbors, Iran and Pakistan. Each country opposes long-term American ties with Afghanistan. [*]
The American and Afghan negotiators have been working hard in recent days to complete the draft so that it could be signed before a NATO conference in Chicago on May 20. There, decisions are to be made on how much money and support will be provided to the Afghan security forces after 2014 and by whom. [*]
Lacking certainty about a long-term American commitment to Afghanistan, some countries were holding back, waiting to see what the United States, the leader in shaping Afghan policy, would do. Western diplomats said Sunday that the allies would now be more willing to make commitments. [**]
The agreement — sweeping by design, with few details to bog down negotiators — puts down in writing for the first time the nature of the relationship the United States will have with Afghanistan once the bulk of American troops go home. It is meant to reassure the Afghan people that the United States will not abandon them, to warn the Taliban not to assume that they can wait out the West, and to send a message to Pakistan, which American officials believe has been hedging its bets in the belief that an American departure would leave the Taliban in charge. [**]
“This is the proof in the pudding that we intend to be there,” one United States official said Sunday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
The agreement came despite a series of setbacks in Afghan-American relations, including the burning of Korans, the massacre of 16 civilians attributed to a lone Army sergeant, and the appearance of grisly photos of American soldiers posing with the body parts of Afghan insurgents.
“In the midst of all these meteor strikes, we were able to still sit down across the table and get these documents agreed to,” one NATO official noted. Many Afghans, including some who are ambivalent about the American presence, believe that the country’s survival is tied to having such an agreement with Washington. They say it will make clear to the Taliban and to regional powers that the Americans will not walk away the way they did in the 1990s after the Soviets were pushed out of the country. [*]
A loya jirga, or traditional council, convened by President Hamid Karzai last fall strongly urged the government to sign a long-term agreement with the United States. [*]
The draft agreement was initialed by Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, and Rangin Spanta, the Afghan national security adviser, at a meeting of the Afghan national security council on Sunday. It will now be sent to Mr. Karzai and to the Afghan Parliament for review and approval, and also to President Obama and the White House. It will become final when signed by the two presidents, according to American and Afghan officials.
Western diplomats in Kabul said the agreement was an important marker and a positive one, both because it would help persuade other Western countries to continue to support Afghanistan and because it will signal all sides, including the Taliban, that they will not have a free hand to manipulate the country after 2014. [*]
“The Iranians don’t like it because it shows the U.S. is going to be here for a long time,” said a European diplomat here who noted that the Taliban would not like it for the same reason. “This is important because they cannot tell their soldiers now just to sit it out and wait for 2014.” [Iranians must be apoplectic?] [*]
The Taliban responded to the draft agreement within minutes, issuing a detailed statement condemning it as a giveaway to the Americans. [*]
The goals of the agreement for the Americans, the Taliban statement said, are: “First goal: securing routes to the Central Asian and Caspian oil fields. Second goal: prevention of a movement in favor of a true Islamic government. Third goal: Bringing secularism and liberalism to Afghanistan. Fourth goal: establishing an army hostile to Islam that protects Western interests. Fifth goal: Continuous threats to Islamic countries in the region and the prevention of political and military ties between them and Afghanistan.” [*]
In many respects the strategic partnership agreement is more symbolic than substantive. It does not lay out specific dollar amounts of aid or name programs that the Americans will support; the financing must be authorized and appropriated by Congress from year to year.
Nor does it lay out specifically what the American military and security presence will be after 2014 or what role it will play. A more detailed security agreement is to come later, perhaps in the next year, Western diplomats said, once it becomes clear how much support European nations will give to the Afghan security forces. [*]
Even so, the United States expects to make substantial contributions toward the cost of Afghanistan’s security forces beyond 2014. A total figure for the United States of $2.7 billion a year has been discussed, and it could easily be more; there would most likely be aid for civilian programs as well. [more than Egypt?] [more than Paksitan?] [seems highish?] [*]
That would be a steep reduction from the amount the United States now spends here, which has been $110 billion to $120 billion a year since the “surge” in American troop levels began in 2010, according to the Congressional Research Service.
For the partnership to work, the Afghan government must follow through with political reforms, particularly in fighting corruption, said Brian Katulis, a national security expert at the Center for American Progress. “U.S. taxpayers have seen tens of millions of their dollars wasted by a corrupt and ineffective Afghan government over the past decade,” Mr. Katulis said. “Any transition plan needs to demand more responsibility from our Afghan partners.”
Officials declined Sunday to release the text of the draft strategic partnership deal or comment on it in detail. “Until the agreement is finalized, we’re not in a position to discuss the elements it contains,” said Gavin Sundwall, the American Embassy spokesman in Kabul.
“Our goal is an enduring partnership with Afghanistan that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability and prosperity and that contributes to the shared goal of defeating Al Qaeda and its extremist allies,” he said. “We believe the agreement supports that goal.”
The talks on the agreement were delayed repeatedly over the delicate issues of night raids by American troops and the American operation of detention facilities. Ultimately, negotiators agreed to prepare detailed side agreements on those two issues. In March the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding shifting responsibility for all detention facilities in the country to the Afghans, and earlier this month they handed final authority over night raids to Afghan security forces, who are now carrying out all raids unless American assistance is requested.
With those two issues resolved, the strategic partnership was completed quickly.
Graham Bowley contributed reporting from Kabul, and Helene Cooper and Steven Lee Myers from Washington.

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