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Pact is an interim solution

Florian Weigand / dbSeptember 30, 2014

The long-delayed security agreement between Afghanistan and the US may calm the situation for a while, but real peace is somewhere in the distant future, writes DW's Florian Weigand.

US soldiers
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Marcel Mettelsiefen

After a tedious, almost six months' long election process, everything was wrapped up and signed within just a matter of ten days. The two presidential candidates agreed on dual leadership, were inaugurated on Monday (29.09.2014), and on Tuesday, the long-awaited security pact with the US was signed.

Time was short: If the document had not been signed, all US troops would have left the country, no matter what security situation they left behind on the Hindu Kush mountain range.

The US wants to stay

At least that was the threatening backdrop for Washington's diplomatic drama.

The reality is different, however.

Even if the agreement had been further delayed, the US would surely have found some interim solution to not have to withdraw from Afghanistan. Just take one glance at Iraq, where the US troops quickly packed their backpacks after a similar deal with Baghdad failed. The consequence is a rampant growth of an organization that calls itself "Islamic State" and threatens to devour the entire region.

Florian Weigand (photo: DW)
Florian Weigand heads DW's Dari and Pashto programsImage: DW/P. Henriksen

The US and the global community can't afford to repeat that situation with the Taliban. Not only Afghanistan would be threatened, so would neighboring Pakistan, a nuclear power with its own Taliban problem.

Washington's willingness to compromise was overly clear. Last year, Hamid Karzai - as of Monday Afghanistan's ex-President - hesitated to sign the bilateral accord even after a council of Afghan notables urged him. The US overindulged him in that case, and again when there was still no successor in sight at the NATO summit earlier this month in Wales. The US threatened to tighten the purse strings for civilian projects, but wisely didn't follow up on the threat.

Mere window dressing

Military leaders must have heaved a sigh of relief as the agreement finally came into force, giving them planning security.

Now that Washington and Kabul have come to terms, other NATO partners are following suit. The direction is clear: 12,000 foreign soldiers - 9.800 of them GIs - will stay in Afghanistan beyond the end of 2014. Only a fraction - 1,200 to 1,400 soldiers - will actually train the Afghan army, the rest will be taking care of logistics.

It would, however, be window dressing to say that it's the end of the combat mission. Combat troops are to remain in the country, too - officially as protection for the trainers and logistics experts.

The Taliban have already announced they will continue their fight until the last western soldier has left the country. So inevitably, the military will be involved in the anti-terror fight. The military presence and its cooperation with Afghan troops - hopefully loyal to the government - may calm some areas medium term. But true peace for Afghanistan is in the distant future, a forward-looking strategy nowhere in sight.