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Bilateral Security Pact Debated

An Afghan grand assembly backed a bilateral security pact with the United States in November.
An Afghan grand assembly backed a bilateral security pact with the United States in November.
Experts and officials have advised President Hamid Karzai to sign the stalled security pact with the United States in an effort to bring stability to Afghanistan.

Participants and callers in a recent Radio Free Afghanistan call-in show, "On the Waves of Freedom," called on Karzai to refrain, in effect, from giving Pakistan and the Taliban a veto on Afghanistan's future by delaying the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement.

Abdul Karim Khuram, President Karzai's chief of staff, says that the Afghan leader's differences with Washington are rooted in national interests and principles. "We demanded that our national security forces must be trained and equipped and that the reconstruction money must be spent wisely and rightly," he said. "But all this is not being done by the United States of America."

He said that Kabul has tried to convince Washington about its perspective on the war in the country. "From the beginning the military engagement in Afghanistan was misguided and as a result extremism has increased," he said.

Khuram described Washington's dealings with Afghanistan's most important eastern neighbor, Pakistan, as murky. "U.S. relations with Pakistan have made the situation in Afghanistan more complicated and confusing," he said. "This resulted in increasing insecurity in Afghanistan and the region."

As a key precondition for signing the security agreement, Karzai has demanded that Washington pressure Pakistan to bring Afghan Taliban insurgents sheltering in the country to the negotiating table. "I believe one hundred percent that the key to peace in Afghanistan is in the hands of U.S. and Pakistan," Karzai recently said.

Lawmaker Abdul Rahim Ayubi said that all Afghans want to see the security agreement signed but that Karzaiā€™s demands are also seen as legitimate. "The Americans and their allies should not think that their presence in Afghanistan was accidental," he said. "I believe Afghans need the security agreement but as a Muslim, human being and an Afghan, I do have the right to be safe in my own home."

Former U.S. special envoy and ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said on the show that he hoped that Washington and Kabul could repair their relations.

"Good relations between Kabul and Washington benefit both countries," he said. "Afghanistan has achieved a lot since 2001 but it still is not self-sufficient."

Khalilzad said that support for engagement in Afghanistan is dwindling in his country. "The interest in huge expenses in security and reconstruction in Afghanistan has faded."

He sees Karzai's precondition for signing the security pact unreasonable. "The United States of America does not control the Taliban or Pakistan to bring peace in Afghanistan."

He urged Karzai to sign the agreement soon. "We should not give the Taliban and Pakistan the veto on the Bilateral Security Agreement. Ultimately, it's not in Afghanistan's interest."

Every Thursday, millions of Afghans in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Tajikistan tune in to "On The Waves of Freedom." This weekly, two-hour-long radio call-in show is known for sharp analysis and political commentary, and is a flagship program of Radio Free Afghanistan, or Radio Azadi, as it is known locally.