‘An enduring partnership’

By Walt Braun

Most Americans pay too little attention to our war in Afghanistan. Maybe they’re weary of the war, though only a few — military personnel and their families —have sacrificed much in the years the United States has had a uniformed presence there.

Maybe Americans are discouraged by news from the war zone. If it doesn’t involve reports of soldiers dying, it has seemed to be depressing for other reasons, such as the mistaken burning of Korans or a U.S. soldier’s massacre of Afghan civilians.

As a result, few Americans probably know that the United States and Afghanistan have agreed — mostly in principle — on a partnership that calls for continued U.S. support for Afghanistan for a decade after U.S. combat troops depart late in 2014.

President Barack Obama so far has said little about the agreement, perhaps because an extended U.S. commitment to Afghanistan could be a hard sell in an election year. It’s also possible that Afghan President Hamid Karzai, hardly an ideal partner, or Afghanistan’s parliament could reject the deal.

Beyond the withdrawal of U.S. troops, the deal could help shore up the Afghan government and protect citizens’ basic rights. U.S. and Afghan officials also hope the framework gives pause to Taliban leaders inclined simply to wait out the departure of U.S. troops. Afghanistan also hopes international investors consider the agreement a sign of stability for the country.

Apart from assurances of continued U.S. involvement, the agreement does not include a specific dollar amount of U.S. aid. That’s something President Karzai, who earlier insisted on greater control over detainees and overnight raids on Taliban forces, has pushed for. Unfortunately for him, although U.S. officials indicated that our nation could contribute about $4 billion a year to support Afghanistan’s military and security forces after 2014, those assurances were not put in writing.

U.S. officials hailed the agreement. Gavin Sundwall, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, said, “Our goal is an enduring partnership with Afghanistan that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability and prosperity and that contributes to our shared goal of defeating al-Qaida and its extremist affiliates. We believe this agreement supports that goal.”

We’d like to share his confidence. But given political realities in America and Afghanistan’s history of outlasting foreign forces — even those with honorable aims — we’re left hoping more than believing he’s right.

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