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Opinion: Security pact with US brings hope back to Afghans

A security pact with the United States isn't what all Afghans want, but it's necessary for the country to develop, writes DW's Florin Weigand.

This time there was no railing against the foreign devils. Afghans taking part in the Loya Jirga put their resentment of the US aside and applied a realpolitik view of their options: who will decide the fate of the country after NATO withdrawals in 2014? Will it be Iran, little-loved Pakistan, or jihadists from around the world? With choices like these, the council would rather huddle under the protection of the US.

Florin Weigand of DW's Afghanistan desk Photo DW/Per Henriksen

Florin Weigand of DW's Afghanistan desk

As painful as they find the decision and as much as they choke on the conditions set by the US, Afghans needs US troops. A robust, sovereign Afghanistan is still a distant vision, and until it becomes a reality, Uncle Sam's presence will remain necessary - even after 2014. The 18,000 US troops in the country will not only train Afghans and fight against the Taliban, they will also send a strong message to the rest of the region. Anyone who messes with Afghanistan, whether it's from Islamabad or Tehran, will be dealing with the US.

Not that the Americans don't also benefit from the deal. Having an outpost on the border to Iran will remind leaders in Tehran that, despite the Geneva agreement in nuclear talks, Washington is keeping a close eye on the Islamic Republic. And that's the message that will be sent to Pakistan as well.

The situation in the Middle East means that Afghanistan will remain a focus of international politics - and that is very much in Kabul's interest. The poor country will continue to benefit from aid money and humanitarian support while the US continues to pay to build up the Afghan army.

Members of the Loya Jirga reached a sensible decision that was likely the product of sound perusal of recent events in the region. In 2011, the US withdrew its troops from Iraq because there was no agreement on a security accord. No Afghan who watches the nightly news could have missed the unrest that has gripped Iraq since. After 35 years of war, terrorism and destruction, Afghans want peace. The Loya Jirga showed it has a good sense for the mood of the people and that it was prepared to make substantial compromises for them.

Although parliamentary approval is still necessary, it can hardly stray from the Loya Jirga's recommendations. As the council enjoys considerable prestige among the population, President Hamid Karzai, who continues to hesitate when it comes to signing a deal with the US, will also find himself bound by the council of tribal chieftains and elders' views.

There is already one clear winner: the people in Kabul. Contrary to their fears ahead of the council meeting, there were no attacks on Loya Jirga or its members. That comes as thanks to the Afghan security forces, who worked in cooperation with US troops. If this is an initial sign for a functioning security partnership, then there is once again hope for Afghanistan.

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