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Downsizing Afghan Troops: A Premature Step – OpEd

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With the signing of the much-awaited strategic partnership pact, Kabul and Washington have entered a new bond of ties; however the issue of downsizing of Afghan security forces has remained up in air. Before the surprise of visit of the US President Obama to Kabul some news reports had started floating in international media that NATO chiefs and politicians are at war over ‘risky’ Afghan withdrawal plans. The reports were released immediately after the coordinated attacks of militants last month when they attacked multiple cities of Afghanistan on a single day to show their might and declare their ‘Spring Offensive’. Soon after the attacks, NATO chiefs and politicians held a summit meeting in Brussels, Germany.

The  international summit split over cost-cutting exit strategy.

If the proposed plan takes practical shape it will have its fallout as the strategy would see security forces depleted as soon as the West leaves Afghanistan. Exactly at a time when the security situation across the country is still precarious while the blueprint for the West’s exit plan for the long war is being set out in a critical meeting, with military officials and diplomats at loggerheads to prevent a proposed downsizing in Afghan security forces. The conference was held in Brussels. It took place as an American newspaper—Los Angeles Times — published photographs of US American soldiers next to the dismembered bodies of the purported Taliban suicide bombers. It is the oft-repeated incident that earned anger and condemnation from all over the world but the US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, had to apologize to the Afghan delegation and fellow NATO ministers for the way the reputation of the international forces had been tarnished and tainted by the actions depicted in the pictures published in the American newspaper.

The most perturbing aspect of the issue is that a British newspaper—‘The Independent’– has learnt that military commanders and diplomats have been in disagreement against an early cut of almost 40 percent in the size of Afghan security forces, just when they are likely to take over full security responsibility from NATO. If it does happen in reality the gains made during the eleven years of the war would not last for long and would heap immediately after the exit of the foreign forces from here. As the two steps—exit of foreign forces and size cut in Afghan forces would ensue a number of troubles and challenges.

Therefore, for the time being this talk should be kept on back burner and shouldn’t be given a practical shape, it is when if the world community and NATO want to see democracy thriving in Afghanistan and if not then no one can stop their hands. Now it is a well know thing that they are firm on bringing a cut in the number of Afghan troops. It is believed that the numbers would shrink from 352,000 to 220,000 from 2014. Whereas the most irking facet of the story is that certain information has surfaced in media that Pakistan has appealed to the US clandestinely to translate this very plan into practicality, which is why Islamabad decided to open supply routes to NATO. Even a person like Maulana Fazlurrehman—the Chief of Jamiat-e-Ulma-e-Islam had to show agreement over the reopening of NATO supply routes via Pakistan. Maulana is the person who runs religious seminaries all over Pakistan where potential suicide bombers and fighters are trained, but being exerted by Pakistan’s ISI, he didn’t oppose the reopening of the supply routes to NATO. Against this backdrop the US has promised Islamabad to bring a size cut in Afghan security forces though the primary and apparent reason is cost.

They claim that cutting manpower would lower the country’s annual defense budget. Nonetheless they haven’t thought over the matter that once they pull out their troops from here, it will definitely lower their defense expenditure. If the change is not brought, the international community will have to fund, from $6.2bn to $4.1bn.

Nevertheless it is good that some of the senior diplomats and military official don’t agree with the proposed plan of downsizing of Afghans security forces. They claim that the cuts would have enormously damaging effects particularly at sensitive time and that’s why they plead for a delay. Afghan citizens also believe the same that for the time being the plan should be delayed until militancy is uprooted and when the situation permits to bring a cut then Afghans wouldn’t have any objection. But until that the world community and the US will have to bear the brunt of the heavy weight of defense budgets.

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Rooh-ul-Amin

Rooh-ul-Amin is a Kabul-based journalist and works at daily ‘Afghanistan Times’, being published from Kabul for past six years. Rooh-ul-Amin blogs on www.afghanpost.wordpress.com and can be reached at: [email protected]

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