Washington — Afghan national forces will assume the lead for security across all of Afghanistan during the spring while troops from the United States and other NATO allies shift their mission to training, advising and assisting Afghan forces, according to a joint statement by President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai after their meeting in Washington January 11.
The United States will be a long-term partner for “a strong and sovereign Afghanistan,” Obama said at a press conference with Karzai following their summit at the White House. “And by the end of next year — 2014 — the transition will be complete. Afghans will have full responsibility for their country, and this war will come to a responsible end.”
“I’m very happy to hear from the president … that the international forces — the American forces will be no longer present in Afghan villages, that the task will be that of the Afghan forces to provide for the Afghan people in security and protection,” Karzai said.
The joint statement said providing additional equipment and training for the Afghan forces will be a key priority in the security transition.
Obama and Karzai said they eliminated obstacles that were blocking negotiations for a bilateral security agreement to allow the United States to keep a residual force in Afghanistan after 2014. Obama insisted that an agreement contain legal immunity for U.S. forces from Afghan law. Karzai said he will “go to the Afghan people and argue for immunity for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in a way that Afghan sovereignty will not be compromised.”
The joint statement said the two presidents committed to placing Afghan detainees under the “sovereignty and control of Afghanistan, while ensuring that dangerous fighters remain off the battlefield.” The document also indicated that detainees will be treated humanely and lawfully.
Obama and Karzai said the United States will support Afghanistan’s economic strategy that focuses on developing human capital to lead Afghanistan’s institutions and fostering growth based on the private sector, entrepreneurs and Afghanistan’s natural wealth.
On the issue of corruption, Karzai said his government has made progress in reducing it but more needs to be done.
“I have been very clear and explicit,” Karzai said. “Corruption that is foreign in origin but occurring in Afghanistan” cannot be brought under control “unless there is cooperation between us and our international partners.”
According the statement, at least 50 percent of U.S. development assistance will be channeled through the national budget of the Afghan government.
ELECTIONS IN 2014
Karzai vowed that Afghanistan’s presidential and provincial council elections on April 5, 2014, will be free, fair and inclusive. Karzai is nearing the end of his second term and is constitutionally barred from running again. “Certainly, I would be a retired president, and very happily, a retired president,” Karzai said.
PEACE AND RECONCILIATION
Obama and Karzai said security gains must be matched by political progress, and they committed to supporting a reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban. They were in agreement on the Taliban opening an office in Qatar where direct talks would take place between the Afghan government and the Taliban with support from regional countries, including Pakistan.
Obama said the Taliban must end violence, break ties with al-Qaida and accept Afghanistan’s Constitution.
Obama said political and diplomatic work lies ahead for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the United States will facilitate cooperation between the two sovereign countries. He added that Pakistan is starting to see the need for cooperation with Afghanistan in the interest of peace and stability in the region.
Karzai said he returns to Afghanistan bearing “news of Afghanistan standing shoulder to shoulder with America as a sovereign, independent country but in cooperation and partnership.”