By Arab News
By Sayed Salahuddin
Afghanistan has a partnership with the US and both sides will jointly act regarding any threats emanating from the country, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said following a media report about NATO planning to prolong its presence in the country.
NATO’s move to keep troops in Afghanistan past the May deadline mentioned in last year’s deal between the Taliban and the previous US administration came days after Ghani was informed by President Joe Biden’s team that it would reassess the deal.
Ghani, who was excluded from the US-Taliban agreement, welcomed the assurances from Biden’s administration and touted them as a new chapter.
“We have a partnership against joint threats with NATO, which is led by America,” Dawa Khan Menapal, a spokesman for Ghani, told Arab News when asked to comment about the Reuters media report on NATO’s plans. “Our campaign will also be taken jointly and any decision will be taken after evaluating the threat jointly too.”
A senior official in Ghani’s administration who is not authorized to speak with the media told Arab News that Kabul had yet to hear officially from NATO about its presence past the May deadline.
Reuters news agency cited four senior NATO officials, quoting one of them as saying: “There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end.”
There are an estimated 10,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, in addition to US soldiers. The NATO source told Reuters that troop levels were expected to stay roughly the same until after May, but the plan beyond that was not clear.
Kabul, as well as some foreign governments and agencies, say the Taliban has failed to meet the deal’s conditions due to an escalation in violence and a failure to cut ties with militant groups such as Al Qaeda, which the Taliban denies.
A Taliban spokesman did not reply to calls from Arab News about NATO’s plan for staying beyond May, but spokesmen for the group have in the past few days said the insurgents were bound to the deal struck with the former US administration and that the new one should honor it.
Taliban negotiators have suspended talks with Kabul’s emissaries in Qatar, where both sides have been meeting for months to discuss peace talks and decide on a political roadmap for the future.
Separate Taliban delegations have in the past few days gone to Russia and Iran, which have spoken against the presence of US troops in Afghanistan.
US officials in recent years have accused both countries of providing intelligence, arms and cash to the Taliban, a charge they deny.
Some analysts feared NATO’s plan for keeping troops in Afghanistan may draw strong resistance from the Taliban and could lead to a further escalation of the conflict and growing intervention from its neighbors through their proxies.
Former government adviser Torek Farhadi believed the coalition possibly intended to bring about a situation where both Kabul and the Taliban agreed on a roadmap before pulling out its troops.
“If US-NATO troops stay a few months longer to give Afghans a chance to create a coalition government through a political settlement, I would welcome it because we need a certain level of guarantee during the first 12 months of such a transition,” he told Arab News. “In that case, it has to be made clear to both parties that they need to make fast progress toward a coalition governance system and not waste this last window of opportunity.”
He said that Afghanistan could head toward another decade of war if troops stayed on and conditions were only set for the Taliban, without the government being told to neutralize “peace spoilers.”
That scenario would seem unfair to the Taliban, he added. “The Taliban would simply walk away from the negotiating table. Not a good calculus for US-NATO, which wants to wrap up its mission. Troops staying, with both sides of the conflict given a strict list of conditions including Kabul to stem corruption and neutralize spoilers and be committed to co-governance with Taliban, would have the desired results and would end a major portion of hostilities in the country.”