Opinion / Editorials

Future of Afghanistan

(China Daily) Updated: 2012-05-03 08:07

The strategic partnership pact inked between the United States and Afghanistan during US President Barack Obama's secret visit to the central Asian country on Tuesday is widely perceived as beginning a new chapter in US-Afghan relations and paving the way for a continued US military presence in central Asia after NATO forces withdraw in 2014.

Obama's visit, on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death, could also be interpreted as a signal that the US wants to reassure the rest of the world that it remains committed to combating terrorism.

However, given the severe challenges the US and its allies are facing in Afghanistan, there is still a long way to go before the security situation in the country visibly improves. Whether the US can work with the Afghan side to stabilize the country in the lead-up to NATO's withdrawal will be a test of the US' strategy and credibility in the region.

The US-led coalition forces ousted the Taliban regime from power in late 2001 and have tried to root out the terrorist group over the past decade. But Taliban militants still target Afghan and NATO-led forces almost every day.

The critical pact was signed only days after Taliban militants launched their unprecedented spring offensive in Kabul and three other cities on April 15. The multipronged attacks left 48 people dead, including 36 attackers, and 65 injured, including 25 civilians.

The Taliban's latest offensive has revived concerns that after 10 years of military operations in Afghanistan the US-led NATO forces have yet to deal a fatal blow to the terrorist group. The Afghan Taliban still possesses the capability to strike at any time and bring heavy losses to the Afghan people. Evidence also abounds that the Taliban's operations have become increasingly secretive and unpredictable.

Meanwhile, the crimes and misdeeds committed by US soldiers in Afghanistan have eroded the US credibility in the country and fanned anti-American sentiments, making it increasingly difficult for the Afghan government to cooperate with NATO.

Some 130,000-strong NATO-led forces, including around 90,000 from the US, are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The signing of the strategic partnership with Afghanistan is just the first step in next stage of the US' strategy for the region. But to avoid leaving behind a big mess in the country, the US should concentrate on plugging the loopholes in security and strive for a smooth transition leading up to the withdrawal of NATO forces.

(China Daily 05/03/2012 page8)

Most Viewed Today's Top News