“The deadline of July 2011 has done us enormous harm. It has led a great many Afghans and Pakistanis and others to believe we are [getting] out of there too quickly,” said Ronald Neumann, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan during the George W. Bush administration.
NATO leaders meeting in Lisbon on Saturday will discuss plans to draw out the withdrawal of coalition troops to the end of 2014.
The alliance’s leaders are also expected to agree on a timetable to transfer responsibility for security to Afghan forces.
Speaking in Lisbon on Friday, President Obama said coalition partners and the Afghan government would work to “align our approach on Afghanistan, particularly in two areas: our transition to full Afghan lead between 2011 and 2014, and the long-term partnership that we’re building in Afghanistan.”
But U.S. officials describe 2014 as only “an aspirational goal.”
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said this week that “although the goal is to have Afghan security forces in the lead over the preponderance of the country by then, it does not necessarily mean, A) that everywhere in the country they will necessarily be in the lead — although clearly that would be the goal, that would be the hope, that’s what we would shoot for … and B), that it does not mean that all U.S. or coalition forces would necessarily be gone by that date. There may very well be the need for forces to remain in-country, albeit, hopefully, at smaller numbers, to assist the Afghans as they assume lead responsibility for the security of their country.”
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the West must stay committed in Afghanistan for “as long as it takes.”
Gen. Keane said the coalition’s ability to successfully meet its 2014 target is threatened by the continuing support from the Pakistani government and army for militant safe havens along the border with Afghanistan.
“Those sanctuaries are aided and abetted by the government of Pakistan and by the military of Pakistan. If the Pakistanis do not pull the plug on those sanctuaries … it is hard to imagine us meeting the 2014 date,” Gen. Keane said.
Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, said parts of the Pakistani establishment continue to view Afghanistan as a client state.
“I don’t think you can get the Pakistanis to turn off support for the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network and others any time in the near future, but we can safeguard Afghanistan against foreign interference,” he said.View Entire Story
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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