NATO Needs New Afghan President Ahead of Summit
In an exclusive interview with TOLOnews, General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, reaffirmed the coalition’s hope for a new government in Kabul to be in place by the time of the NATO summit in London next week, so that future security cooperation with Afghanistan can be ensured.
Although both of the Afghan presidential candidates have promised to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which would provide the legal framework for an ongoing military partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan, and, in turn, between NATO and Afghanistan, when there will actually be a new president in office to sign the deal remains to be seen. With the NATO withdraw scheduled for December, but the election process still dragging on, coalition officials have stressed the need for expediency.
“As to Afghanistan, what we hope to do is to be able to celebrate that we have a newly elected government and a leader in place and the BSA signed,” Gen. Breedlove said regarding the NATO summit scheduled to begin on September 4.
The BSA would allow a contingent of U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan post-2014. U.S. officials have suggested the number of troops may start at around 10,000, but then drawdown overtime. The primary purpose of the presence would be to train and advise the Afghan security forces, conduct counterterrorism operations, and oversee military financial aid, aid which is conditioned on the signing of the security pact.
Gen. Breedlove appeared optimistic about the capabilities of the Afghan forces. “I think the Taliban will continue to provide a challenge for the ANSF, but as I have said several times, we now have a wonderful ANSF military force and police force that can provide security to the Afghan people,” he said.
The BSA was initially expected to be signed toward the end of 2013, a full year before the NATO withdraw. However, President Hamid Karzai rejected the recommendation of a Loya Jirga that he himself convened and refused to sign the pact unless the U.S. and its allies acquiesced to certain demands. The rejection, along with other less than amicable exchanged between Kabul and Washington over the past year, has frayed relations between Afghanistan and its western allies.
Nevertheless, Britain, along with others, has reiterated their commitment to supporting the Afghan government and the security forces.
“We will confirm our support to the Afghan government including the continued financial assistance for the sustainment of Afghan national security forces who are already providing security across Afghanistan,” Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan Robert Chatterton Dickson said. (ToloNews)