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NATO Withdrawal and the Future of Afghanistan

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The NATO-led Spanish forces will soon withdraw from Badghis province as part of withdrawal process which is aimed to complete by 2014. The Spanish Defense Ministry announced that a part of military forces of the country, operating in Afghanistan under command of the NATO, will be stationed at their main base in western Herat province.

Withdrawal of the Italian forces is a part of complete withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan and transition of security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces. The transition process and withdrawal of foreign troops takes place as Afghanistan is still facing a rigid insurgency and the Taliban stage deadly attacks on military installations and government offices in Kabul and other big cities. The withdrawal of foreign forces is speeding up while the security situation of Afghanistan is uncertain and the picture for future is vague.

According to the new agreement reached between Afghanistan and US when President Karzai visited Washington last year, the US military would transition security responsibility to Afghans and shift to support role faster than what was expected before. The transition process and handover of responsibilities to Afghans themselves would be a historic milestone in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

The post-2014 Afghanistan is going to face the insurgency alone, handle the political transition responsibly and manage the economic transition in a way that the economy remains sustainable after the international community leaves the country by itself. The NATO-led forces are preparing for complete withdrawal while the insurgency is still claiming lives on daily basis and the security challenges remains unabated. The recent attacks by the Taliban and Haqqani Network indicate the hard path ahead in the fight against insurgency.

No doubt, Afghanistan would be facing stiff resistance from the insurgency for years to come. Recently, there has been an increase in spectacular assaults by the Taliban and Haqqani Network on major cities and city centers across the country. This is while the capability of the Afghan National Forces is considerably limited and they would need to rely on NATO and US assistance in firepower, logistics, intelligence, and medical for years.

On the political side, the peace process is lagging behind the expectations and the Taliban do not seem to be willing to come on negotiation table for ending the war. The Afghan government is committed to pursue peace talks with the Taliban but the fact is that the future of the efforts remains uncertain.

This is while there is visible loss of confidence between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United States as we witnessed in the bitter confrontation between Karzai and US government. The lack of confidence and tactical differences between Kabul and Washington intensify concerns over a robust security support from the NATO and the US after 2014. At this critical time, the government of Afghanistan needs to spare no effort for strengthening cooperation between Kabul and Washington particularly in security issues.

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