Afghan politicians and leaders of a number of political movements on Wednesday gathered in Kabul where they discussed Afghanistan’s ongoing political and security situation with a special focus on the issue of peace and the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) signed between Afghanistan and the United States.
This agreement has allowed thousands of US soldiers to remain in the country after 2014 and it has paid the salaries of all Afghan National Defense and Security Force members.
At the meeting Wednesday, the politicians also emphasized the need for national unity and for fair and transparent elections.
Speaking at the event, Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai proposed the Afghan government review the security agreement with the US – a call widely welcomed by other politicians.
Former acting president and leader of Afghan National Liberation Front Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was among those who agreed to Karzai’s proposal.
Mojaddedi was previously one of the key supporters of the BSA.
Those who attended the meeting were Karzai, former national security advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Mohammad Mohaqeq, the second deputy of CEO Abdullah Abdullah, former vice president Ahmad Wali Massoud, MP Sayed Mansur Naderi, former foreign minister Zarar Ahmad Muqbil, former presidential candidate Zalmai Rasoul, former national security advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta, leader of Hizb-e-Islami Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, Head of the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan Pir Sayed Hamed Gailani, former minister of finance Anwarul Haq Ahadi and several others.
“We gathered to discuss the situation in the country,” said Mojaddedi.
“Debates are needed on three key national issues such as election transparency, peace and security,” said Sayed Niamatullah, deputy head of Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami party
At the meeting, Karzai accused the US of failing to deliver on its promises in accordance with the BSA.
“The security agreement must be reviewed, those agree raise your hands…his excellency Hazarat Sahib (Mojaddedi) is also in agreement,” said Karzai.
They also called for wider reforms to be put in place in the elections system and the politicians agreed to work together towards improving the ongoing situation in the country.
The Afghan government so far has not commented on the meeting.
Karzai refused to sign US-Afghan security pact
The BSA was initially supposed to be signed by the Karzai administration. But Karzai stunned top US officials and many of his own security officials and the Afghans in general by refusing to sign the agreement. He said that the US first needed to restore peace in Afghanistan before he would sign the pact.
Karzai said that the US had to prove its good intentions by keeping its soldiers out of Afghan homes and promoting peace talks with the Taliban.
“We said that to sign the security agreement between Afghanistan and the US, if the Jirga agreed on it and the Wolesi Jirga (lower House of Parliament) agreed, then we will work on the implementation phase of the agreement, but the implementation phase included peace and stability in Afghanistan and holding transparent elections. I am happy that you (members of Loya Jirga) have pondered the issue of peace and stability in Afghanistan. But when will the peace and security be restored, today after your verdict or security after ten years or fifteen years, we need security today! We need security today! But logically it is not an easy task for us to allow a foreign country to establish a base here. But we are compelled to give them a base because of the conspiracies against our country in the last 30 years, for that, we have a condition and that is our security should be restored from today,” said Karzai in 2013 during the Loya Jirga in Kabul.
“I want to repeat that the US will not go inside our homes after this document, it cannot kill anyone inside their homes, the people of Afghanistan must live in peace. Peace should be restored, it should not be in a way that the US forces stay in their bases, but the country is gripped with war,” added Karzai.
No Post-2014 Troop Numbers Planned Without Security Agreement
Karzai’s denial pushed the BSA to a stalemate despite him having faced a serious backlash from the Afghan politicians and Afghanistan’s western partners including NATO at the time.
Both the US and NATO had realistically planned to have an agreement in hand by the end of the summer of 2014.
Then NATO Secretary General Andres Fog Rasmussen, during the alliance’s heads of state summit in Wales, said that the US and NATO could pull out completely without the BSA and SOFA.
"But we need to be very clear: finalizing the planning for our new mission depends on completing the NATO Status of Forces Agreement. As we have said from the start, the NATO Status of Forces Agreement cannot be concluded until the Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the Untied States is signed," Rasmussen said.
"The longer we go without a Bilateral Security Agreement and a NATO Status Of Forces Agreement, the more challenging it will be for United States and other ISAF nations to support, plan, and execute this post-2014 mission. That is why earlier this week, [U.S.] President [Barack] Obama directed the U.S. military to begin additional contingency planning," then US defense secretary Chuck Hagel said.
NATO and US top officials persistently warned that failure to achieve a Status of Forces agreement with Afghanistan could result not just in a “zero option” for foreign troops remaining there after 2014, but it also puts at risk further financial assistance for the government’s security forces.
Back in 2014, the National Unity Government (NUG) under President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah concluded the crucial Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with NATO, paving the way for about 12,000 foreign forces to remain in Afghanistan post-2014.