Outside editorial: Accord key to keeping Afghanistan stable

The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News:

Next year’s date is rapidly approaching for Afghan troops to take the lead role defending their country, and yet the prospects are bleak that they’ll be ready. The Afghan leadership is swimming in corruption. Popular support for this war is waning rapidly. Skeptics rightly question whether a decade of American blood and treasure has been squandered.

Granted, the war has been full of big disappointments. But they don’t outweigh the need to prevent Afghanistan from returning to its pre-9/11 state as a Taliban bastion and al-Qaida haven.

Afghanistan remains too unstable and vulnerable to fend for itself. The United States cannot simply pack its bags and walk away.

That’s why we greeted with relief the news last week that U.S. and Afghan negotiators have hammered out a long-term strategic partnership agreement that will ensure ongoing military and economic cooperation over the next decade.

From the broad outlines described by officials, the accord should assuage the biggest fear Afghans have that the United States is preparing to abandon them.

It also sends a clear message that the Taliban and their Pakistani backers are mistaken if they think the country is up for grabs as of 2014, when U.S.-dominated NATO forces are scheduled to withdraw.

A more detailed, separate security agreement — one that must spell out future training and combat-support roles for U.S. special operations forces — is still being worked out. But both governments agree that a continuing U.S. military role will be necessary.

A key measure of this accord’s significance is the swift Taliban reaction to it.

They contend that the U.S. goal in Afghanistan is to secure routes to Caspian and Central Asian oil fields, which is an odd charge to make considering that no such route has materialized after a decade of U.S. presence there.

The Taliban say this accord seeks to block formation of a true Islamic government. The United States has been clear from the start: Afghans must be free to choose their own government. The only U.S. stipulation is that leaders must never again allow Afghan territory to be used as a base for terrorists.

Taliban leaders say the accord’s goal is to bring secularism and liberalism to Afghanistan. Wrong again. The ongoing presence is intended to halt Taliban efforts to restore the rule of the gun so women can be oppressed and the harshest form of Islamic strictures can be imposed on Afghans against their will.

This accord can only work if it also succeeds in reversing the rampant corruption that has made Afghans so reluctant to defend President Hamid Karzai’s government. Too much time has been lost. Much work remains. The alternative — abandonment and failure — is not an option.


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