US President Barack Obama and his counterpart Hamid Karzai have signed an agreement for strategic partnership. For Afghans it sends a clear message: 'we won't forsake you after the NATO withdrawal in 2014.'
Afghan President Hamid Karzai seemed calm when he appeared before the press in Kabul on Wednesday (May 2). He said the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement was proof that the world would not forsake Afghanistan after NATO troops have gone by the end of 2014.
He also issued a reassuring statement to neighboring countries: "The signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement does not endanger any third states or countries of Afghanistan. On the contrary - we hope that this agreement will contribute towards the stabilization and economic development of the entire region."
Karzai is aware that countries like Pakistan and Iran and also Russia and China view a long-term US presence in Afghanistan critically. So Kabul is placing effort in making its ties with Washington attractive for the whole region.
Sending a message
The US and Afghanistan negotiated the agreement for two years before agreeing on a final text last week. The agreement encompasses eight chapters and sets a framework for extensive cooperation between Washington and Kabul in military and also civil fields until the end of 2024. Every six months, a joint commission will monitor its implementation.
The Afghan publicist Bashir Atif said the document was a great achievement for the Afghan people.
"Afghanistan is threatened by a number of enemies in the region and also in the country itself. This agreement sends a clear message: the existence of Afghanistan will be safeguarded by the world power, the USA." A promise that means a lot, especially now, said Atif.
He did, however, criticize the text for not containing any concrete numbers. The amount of financial aid Afghanistan is to receive from the US will be debated and set by the US Congress each year. A drawback, according to Atif, as this would not allow the Afghan government room for long-term planning.
As Omar Schrifi of Kabul's American Institute of Afghan Studies explained, the details of the cooperation have been noted in a separate contract.
The new contract, he said, sent two vital messages: "First of all, it makes clear that Afghanistan will not be severed from the rest of the world after 2014. Secondly, it sends a message of relief to those who were worried that Afghanistan would be left to fend for itself. Domestic politics will now surely be able to look ahead confidently."
Schrifi also said it was significant that both signing parties agreed there was no alternative to a democratic form of government in Afghanistan. The text also stipulates that Afghanistan will uphold human rights and recognize the important role of women in society - a gratifying settlement for Afghanistan's democratic thinkers, according to Schrifi.
While many people have welcomed the pact for cooperation, there are also voices of criticism. Afghan MP Ramazan Baschardost said Wednesday was a bad day for his country:
"The US is supporting a government that is entirely corrupt. Many members of this government belong behind bars. The agreement will not do anything for the people of Afghanistan."
Baschardost, a trained lawyer, demands the US and the international community rid Afghanistan of its "current government of bandits" first before it starts thinking about a long-term partnership. Baschardost's views are echoed by many conservatives who see the US as "the devil."
Former General Atiqulla Amarkhel thinks the critics are too harsh. As a poor country, Amarkhel said, Afghanistan had no other choice than to latch onto a strong partner.
"The deal will give us Afghans the freedom to ensure our security and design our future somewhat independently. What we get out of the agreement with the Americans is up to us. All Afghans have to seize this opportunity and end the trench warfare."
Author: Ratbil Shamel / sb
Editor: Shamil Shams