Afghan security situation will worsen if U.S. stays beyond 2014

Former Afghan foreign minister Najibullah Lafraie says that the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by Afghanistan and the United States will not “have a big impact” on the security situation in Afghanistan.
But if the strategic pact “leads to an agreement on the continuous presence of American troops beyond 2014, it would have serious repercussions for the security of Afghanistan and its neighbors,” Lafraie told the Mehr News Agency in an interview.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: What are the impacts of the Strategic Partnership Agreement on Afghanistan’s security in the future?

A: I don’t think the agreement signed would have a big impact on the future by itself. It seems to me to be a reiteration of what is already agreed upon and/or going on; and it leaves the most important questions — that is, continuous presence of American troops in Afghanistan after 2014 and their legal status — to a future “Mutual Security Agreement.” It paves the way for that agreement, though, and it can be considered of some significance in that regard.

The reasons why the agreement was signed with the most important issues left out are twofold: 1) The disagreement within the Karzai government over those issues, and (in my mind) President Karzai’s own reluctance to provide permanent bases to Americans and grant them immunity from legal prosecution; and 2) President Obama’s need for something concrete about the future of Afghanistan to present to worried NATO allies in their summit later this month and something to assure the American voters that an end to their military involvement in Afghanistan is in sight.

Q: Can the agreement affect the security in the region?

A: As noted above, at this stage the Strategic Partnership Agreement does not change the security situation in Afghanistan or in the region. However, if it leads to an agreement on the continuous presence of American troops beyond 2014, it would have serious repercussions for the security of Afghanistan and its neighbors: 1) it would complicate the prospect of reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban; so it would mean continuous war and insecurity in the country; 2) neither the immediate neighbors — like China, Iran and Pakistan — nor far neighbors — like Russia — can remain indifferent to such a situation. Thus, it would increase tension and may lead to more insecurity; and 3) despite the U.S. pledge not to use the Afghanistan soil as “a launching point for attacks against other countries” (which means it could be used for that purpose once the attack is launched from elsewhere), it would be almost impossible for the Afghan government to make sure the U.S. fulfills its pledge –especially with the language used in article 6b of the Agreement (noted above). That could mean a fully fledged war in the region. A scary prospect for all!

Q: Is there a possibility of a military attack on Iran?

A: A military attack on Iran by the U.S. is possible in theory, but not probable. I believe if the U.S. could, it would have attacked Iran long time ago. There was every indication that Iran was at the top of the list of the countries for “regime change” by the Bush administration after the invasion of Iraq. If that invasion had gone according to the wishes of the Neocons, Iran could expect to be the target soon thereafter. As it happened, first Iraq and later Afghanistan taught a lesson to the U.S., admitted by the former secretary of defense, Robert Gates: “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”

Thus, now regime change is out of question.

Would the U.S. attack Iranian nuclear facilities? Again I don’t think so, at least not under President Obama. There seems to be a clear difference between the Obama administration’s view on Iranian nuclear capabilities and that of Israel, despite some statements indicating the contrary. The U.S. knows (or should know) the cost of an attack on Iran to their interests in the Middle East, and it would most probably refrain from being dragged to such a war by Israel.

Q: What will be the security repercussions for the Middle East if Iran comes under attack?

A: If there is an attack on Iran, the Islamic Republic will certainly use all its capabilities to retaliate. They have strong connections to various groups not only in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon but in many other Middle Eastern countries. That would complicate the conditions for the U.S. exponentially and will certainly lead to the situation (which is already slippery) getting completely out their control.

Of course there will also be a general reaction by the Muslims, especially if the attack causes civilian casualties.

Q: What is your view of Israeli threats against Iran?

A: If Israel could manage to get the U.S. on its side, the chances were high that it would carry out its threat. Without the U.S. support, an Israeli attack on Iran is in doubt. However, it cannot be ruled out given Israeli leaders’ defiance to the U.S. in the past. Israel seems seriously concerned about Iran getting nuclear capability and would try to do whatever it can to prevent it from that. Would that mean an attack without the U.S. support? Doubtful, but possible!

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