Suspending BSA with the US: Afghan President’s intentional move

(VOVworld) – President Hamid Karzai repeated last week that Afghan security forces can ensure national security without international assistance. The announcement has dashed any US hope that the outgoing Afghan President will sign a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US.

Suspending BSA with the US: Afghan President’s intentional move - ảnh 1
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US President Barack Obama during a joint news conference in January, 2013 (photo: Reuters)

In a speech to the Afghan parliament on March 15, President Karzai said American troops can leave Afghanistan late this year because the Afghan military, which is already defending 93% of Afghanistan’s territory, is ready to take over full security responsibility. Mr. Karzai repeated that he will not sign a BSA with the US which would allow a certain number of American soldiers to stay in Afghanistan after the main troop withdrawal. Mr. Karzai said the Afghan military is strong enough to protect the nation without the help of international forces.

Kabul and Washington have spent several months negotiating a BSA, aiming to keep approximately 10,000 to 20,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan after 2014. Washington hoped that the US could maintain its right to manage and use Bagram air base, north of Kabul, and use another 8 bases across Afghanistan over the next 8 years.

Ensuring national interests

President Karzai said he refused to sign the BSA because the agreement reserves some special rights for US soldiers including immunity from prosecution by the Afghan legal system, the right to launch unilateral attacks against terrorist targets, and the right to search churches and private homes.

Observers say Mr. Karzai has not signed because he has been dissatisfied with the US during his two terms in office. He has regularly criticized US and NATO military operations for inciting instability and failing to ensure security in Afghanistan. As a base for the US and its allies to launch anti-terrorism activities in Central and South Asia, Afghanistan has become a target for retaliatory attacks by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Afghanistan has asked the US to protect its citizens from Taliban attacks but was refused.

Facing security and economic pressure

President Karzai said his troops are protecting 93% of the country, but that doesn’t mean the Afghan military’s capability has improved. The public is skeptical about Afghanistan’s ability to protect itself, although the US has helped train Afghan security forces for years.

Late last year, President Karzai visited India to ask for a military aid package. He also agreed on a long term cooperation and friendly-relation pact with Iran in politics, security, and economy.

Besides political interests, Karzai’s decision not to sign a BSA will affect non-refundable US aid to Afghanistan. Legislator Haji Mirdad Khan Nijrabi said the US had offered Afghanistan 4.1 billion USD for improving its security forces and 4 billion USD for civil construction. He said Afghanistan may not get the funding because of not signing the BSA. The decision will also influence investors who are concerned about the security situation.

President Karzai’s decision means he leaves the question for his successor after the presidential election on April 5.