Rasmussen Urges Kabul to Finalize Post-2014 Deal
Kabul- NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at a news conference on Monday urged Kabul to finalize its post-2014 deal with the U.S., warning that Afghanistan could face a complete halt in NATO support operations in the country “if it does not sign the Bilateral Security Agreement.”
“For planning reasons, we need to know soon whether we are invited or not. I mean, if we are not invited, if we don’t have any legal framework then we can’t stay in Afghanistan after 2014. This is as simple as that,” Rasmussen said.
On Saturday, President Hamid Karzai claimed the U.S. government had been putting pressure on the Afghan government to sign the security pact by “any means”. He chastised Washington for engaging in a “psychological war”, which he said was not an act of a “friend”, but a “rival”.
President Karzai maintained that he had not budged on his preconditions for signing the BSA, which would ensure a continued presence of coalition troops in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends in December.
In addition to ending unilateral operations on Afghan homes, Karzai said that his other precondition that the U.S. get peace talks with the Taliban back on track was still firmly in place. He said that peace in Afghanistan was in the hands of the U.S. and Pakistan.
In an hour long press conference, the Afghan leader also said he doesn’t want the BSA to become a second Durand Line Treaty, referring to a deal made by former Afghan King Abdul Rahman Khan with the British India on what is now a disputed border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Back and forth over the BSA has been just one point of tension between the U.S. and Karzai’s government as of late. A recent joint U.S.-Afghan military operation in Ghorband District of Parwan Province that resulted in a number of accidental civilian deaths also stoked the fires of discord between them.
Karzai blamed the U.S. for the civilian casualties, and even went so far as to imply the deadly Taliban attack on a popular Lebanese restaurant in Kabul last week that left 21 dead, including 13 foreign civilians, would not have happened had it not been for the Ghorband incident.
The President set up an investigative committee to look into the operation and their findings were damning for the U.S. It was not until just Monday that eye-witnesses of the incident and other Afghan officials came out and denounced the committee and its investigation as politicized and inaccurate.
At the press conference on Monday, Rasmussen also commented on Kabul’s plan to release a number of prisoners considered by the United States as a threat to security, another cause for the cooling relations between the two countries.
“It is a matter of concern if they are released merely based on political reasons instead of putting them to trial and go through a normal legal process,” he said.
The U.S. government has condemned an ordered release of a first wave of 88 prisoners from Bagram prison, saying that more than 40 percent of them were involved in direct attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces.
The Afghan Review Board (ARB), charged with overseeing Bagram prisoner releases by Karzai, led by Abdul ShakoorDadras, ordered the first 37 of 88 prisoners from Bagram to be released on Monday.”The review board, after long assessments and studies of the information and data that the NDS on recommendation of the President had submitted, decided on the future of at least 37 inmates detained in Bagram Prison,” Dadras said.
Some Afghan officials have called into question the legitimacy of the ARB, echoing Rasmussen’s assertions that any releases should be handled through the proper legal channels. U.S. officials have said 17 of the 37 released prisoners are linked to the production of IEDs and the killing of 11 Afghan soldiers.
The U.S. military handed over full control of the only U.S.-run prison in Afghanistan to the Afghan government nearly one year ago, easing tensions over one of the longest-running standoffs between Kabul and Washington.
However, between the stalemate over the BSA, the Ghorband fiasco and the Bagram prisoners, relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan could be at an all-time low heading into Karzai’s last months in office and the last year of the NATO combat mission.
Many Afghan politicians, analysts and civil society activists have come out in condemnation of Karzai and his feud with Washington. Calls for the BSA to be finalized have abounded since the agreement was approved by a Loya Jirga convened by Karzai himself back in November. (ToloNews)