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NATO handover

August 2, 2012

What will become of the hundreds of NATO bases in Afghanistan after foreign troops withdraw from the country? NATO wants to destroy most of them - to the dismay of the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Kundus NATO base
Image: picture-alliance/ZB

Last Friday (July 27), the radical Islamist Taliban laid their claim to NATO-military bases in Afghanistan on the internet for all to read. They said that while the withdrawal of NATO troops should be seen as a positive step, it would at the same time be irrational if the "foreign invaders" destroyed the military infrastructure - facilities on Afghan soil and in part financed with Afghan money. The Taliban said this was enough to entitle the Afghan population the "right to use these facilities."

This is a topic over which the Taliban and the Afghan government in agreement. The government would like to use the NATO bases for itself, government spokesperson Siamak Herawi told DW.

"We demand from NATO and the international community that these installations they are leaving are left intact and are handed over to the Afghan government so that the public can benefit from them," he said.

ISAF searches for a compromise

There are around 600 foreign bases in Afghanistan. According to a report published by the Washington Post, an American company has already received a contract for over 46.5 million euros to organize the demolition of them. But the Afghan government demands negotiations first before they are demolished, said Herawi.

The ISAF, on its part, has denied making any arrangements without consulting with the Afghan government. ISAF spokesperson General Guenter Katz told DW there was a commission responsible for the handover of the bases which is directed by the Afghan ministry of finance.

He said the Afghan government and ISAF "sit together in this commission and discuss and negotiate which bases are to be handed over. The results are then implemented by the ISAF."

He noted that the Afghan government has created a document listing its needs for military equipment and also the capacities of the Afghan army. When asked if it was possible that the weapons might fall into the hands of the Taliban, he answered: "That is speculative so I don't wish to comment on that. I don't know what the Taliban's comments are founded on."

Taliban 'propaganda'

The Taliban's demands to receive NATO bases - even though these are used primarily to fight the Islamists themselves - was only propaganda, according to Ahmad Zia Raf'at, professor at the University of Kabul.

"The Taliban want to convey to the Afghan people that they are concerned about the country's welfare. And they don't really mind if the Afghan government takes over the bases because they assume they will be back in power soon anyway."

He pointed out that neither the Afghan government nor the Taliban had the financial means to maintain the bases but that the Taliban could nonetheless use the buildings. For example, how they used stadiums and sports grounds for executions during their rule of the country. Referring to what happened when the former Soviet Union withdrew from the country at the end of the 1980s, Raf'at said it was possible that similar conditions could return to the country after international forces leave in 2014. When the Russians left, their military equipment was put to use in the subsequent civil war.

US soldiers of Bravo Troop of 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry fill a HESCO barrier as they build a watch tower at a forward operating base in Dand district of Kandahar Province in Afghanistan
Will walls keep out the insurgents?Image: MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images
Afghan protestors are seen in front of the US base of Bagram during an anti US demonstration in Bagram north of Kabul, Afghanistan
NATO bases, like this one in Bagram, have long been a source of controversyImage: dapd

Author: Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi / sb
Editor: Shamil Shams