An Afghanistan Conundrum

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The US appears to have reached a similar point of exasperation in Afghanistan as the Soviet Union nearly three decades ago. Public support for US military engagement has dissipated even as the Obama Administration has minimized its objective to a claim that the US forces are leaving the country when the Afghan situation is on the mend and moving towards stabilization. At this point two questions have often been raised: Will there be a residual US military presence in Afghanistan, and what will happen post 2014 which will mark the military and political transition respectively in the shape of departure of the Coalition forces and the Afghan presidential election. Meanwhile, the conflict persists in its multiple dimensions—tribal, ethnic, political, ideological and in subsisting regional rivalries. The best hope is that it will gradually abate with normalcy returning to Afghanistan.
The US desires to maintain limited military presence for the ostensible purpose of counter terrorism operations and to ensure that the Afghan army remains together. Until recently, negotiations for the needed Status of Force agreement had proved difficult. The endorsement by the Loya Jirga has, however, pretty much cleared the way for the agreement which had not been possible in the case of Iraq. Continuing US military presence will help avert the possible though highly unlikely scenario of a collapse and wider civil war. On the down side, it will sustain the Afghan Taliban motivation to keep fighting. Nonetheless, the Afghan Army as well as the political structures put together at Bonn will continue and gain in confidence with the passage of time. The conflict could escalate especially in the south and south-eastern parts of Afghanistan, but the Afghan Taliban have little chance of returning to Kabul as Afghanistan is no longer the same isolated country of early 1990s ravaged by intra- Mujahedin warfare. International and Afghan domestic environment has  changed. The Afghan national army has shown the ability to defend Kabul and many other urban centers; the bigger issue it  may face will be of financing if the current sources start drying up.
– Riaz Mohammad Khan

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