Will Afghanistan’s Bilateral Security Agreement Bring Peace?

Critics who support President Karzai’s position agree that a bilateral security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan should pave the way for lasting peace and security.

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Various analysts have considered 2014 to be an important year for Afghanistan. Many things are to happen here that will define the country’s future.

In addition to the upcoming presidential elections, the US-led coalition is set to end its combat mission by the end of 2014 and reach an agreement with the Afghan government on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). In principle both sides agree on signing the agreement; however, the following explains why the pact has yet to be signed.

Fate of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA)

The BSA is an important document that extends access to military bases in Afghanistan to US forces. It also establishes guidance for the US military in post-2014 Afghanistan, after most of the international combat forces would be withdrawn.

In general, there is eagerness among the Afghan people to sign the agreement with the United States and perhaps a similar one with NATO, and continue to build on cooperative relations with the international community.

This was obvious in the historic consultative Loya Jirga in Kabul where unanimous support was voiced for the signature of the document. However, as correctly pointed out by President Karzai, Afghans also want the agreement to set a break from the past and lead to serious peace talks and genuine peace and security in Afghanistan.

Critics in Afghanistan who support President Karzai’s position agree that an Afghan-US agreement should not be only a nicely worded, rhetorical document: It should pave the way for lasting peace and security. Otherwise, the status quo will continue.

Afghans do not want the continuation of the status quo

As much as there is a general desire for a continued international presence, there is also a similar desire of a brokered diplomatic solution. The Afghan President believes that the international community can mediate such a deal.

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Moreover, in light of the BSA agreement, Afghans want to continue their march towards a more prosperous and democratic society. In the past 12 years, Afghanistan’s GDP has increased, infrastructure has improved, and financial services and telecommunication has expanded significantly. The Afghan private sector development has helped in job creation and economic development, and it continues to have great potential for development and investment in mining, human resources, transportation and local production.

However, the uncertainty and insecurity poses a serious threat to these sectors and undermines all progress including improvement in women’s rights, good governance and civil society development.

The BSA therefore needs to respond to the uncertainty. It needs to guarantee that an agreement, just like the NATO agreement, should encompass and guarantee a measurable success. It should be a concise proposal for better security across Afghanistan.

If the BSA promises these results, Afghan President Karzai or his successor may sign the agreement sooner than later.

For more commentary on Afghanistan, the United States and the Bilateral Security Agreement, click here.

Moheb Arsalan J. is an Afghan analyst and commentator on governance, conflict, and socioeconomic development affairs in the Af-Pak region. Moheb studied Economics in New York and Kabul University as a Fulbright scholar and holds a Masters in Governance and Public Policy from Willy Brandt School in Germany. He is based in Kabul and can be reached at arsalan.moheb@gmail.com. Follow him on Google+. Read other articles by Moheb.

  • Ali H. Alyami

    The re-Tantalization of Afghanistan after the end of this year seems to be certain. Why? Because there is more support for religious extremists (petro-dollar Arab curtail) than for pro-democratic and social justice forces movements. .