‘No need to review Afghan pullout’

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Jun 23, 2014 23:00 IST

The US doesn’t feel need to re-evaluate its Afghanistan strategy in view of the way the pullout of its troops played out in Iraq, where insurgency has returned in the years since.

“No,” President Barack Obama said in interview aired Monday to a question if spiraling Iraq violence was reason enough for him to re-think Afghanistan pullout.

“I think that what we have done assuming that the Afghans sign a security agreement that gives our troops immunity — which the Iraqis declined to do — we’re prepared to have a residual force that helps to continue to train their forces, to continue to help stabilize the situation as you have the new government coming in.”

Obama’s critics have blamed the return of insurgency on his decision calling back US troops from Iraq in 2011, and have asked him to avoid the same mistake in Afghanistan. Conceding that Afghanistan may experience similar problems post pullout “just as there are in Iraq”, Obama said, “unless we are prepared to stay indefinitely in all these various countries — something we can’t afford and would involve over time accusations we were occupying these countries — at some they’re going to have to take responsibility for working together.”

Obama announced recently the US will leave behind a residual force of 9,800 troops when it ceases combat operations and leaves by the end of 2014 (and completely by 2016).

That would be contingent on Afghanistan signing a bilateral security agreement which would, chiefly, grant immunity to these troops from local laws.

President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign it But the two men running to succeed him — Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani — have said they will. India, which signed a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan in 2011 — though not the same kind, favours continued US presence in that country.

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