Pact will not serve the government of Afghanistan, its people or the region

Iran has firmly opposed the proposed security pact between Afghanistan and the United States, highlighting that differences on crucial issues between Tehran and Washington will persist, despite the game-changing nuclear deal that was signed in Geneva last month.

On Tuesday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham stressed that the proposed Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Kabul and Washington will not serve the government of Afghanistan, its people or the region. The BSA would anchor the legal regime that would apply to American troops in Afghanistan, who would be earmarked to stay beyond 2014, when most of the U.S. forces are to withdraw.

The security pact — which would allow the stationing of 8,000 to 12,000 troops — has stirred a heated debate inside Afghanistan and beyond.

Analysts point out that positioning of U.S. forces in their thousands will have an impact not only on the stability of Afghanistan, but of neighbouring countries as well, including China, Pakistan, India, Iran, the Central Asian Republics and Russia.

A day earlier, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia-Pacific and Commonwealth Affairs Ebrahim Rahimpour announced that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is slated to visit Iran shortly. “In this trip, [Mr.] Karzai will hold meetings with [Iranian] officials, particularly President Dr. [Hassan] Rouhani,” Iran’s English language Press TV quoted Mr. Rahimpour as saying.

He pointed out that Iran would convey to the visiting President that the agreement would “harm the long-term interests of the Afghan nation and government.” “Iran, as a friend of Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai himself, has stressed its concerns several times and will again raise these issues and concerns in the course of the next trip,” the Iranian diplomat said.

Mr. Rahimpour pointed out that the agreement would spiral extremism in Afghanistan. The Iranian position clashes head-on with the stance adopted by the West. On Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that if Mr. Karzai fails to sign the security deal with the U.S., NATO would also withdraw its training and advisory mission in Afghanistan after 2014.

“It is clear that if there is no signature on the legal agreement, there can be no deployment and the planned assistance will be put at risk,” Mr. Rasmussen told reporters on his arrival at Brussels for a two-day gathering of NATO Foreign Ministers.

President Karzai’s proposed visit to Iran is part of his accelerated effort to consult regional leaders on the proposed deal. The Afghan President also plans to visit New Delhi later this month.

Over the weekend, Mr. Karzai hosted Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan — a country that, for reasons of geography and history, will continue to exercise substantial influence over Afghanistan.

Xinhua is reporting that talks between the two leaders focused on the promotion of a dialogue between the Afghan government and Pakistan-based Taliban leaders. During a press conference with Mr. Karzai, Mr. Sharif stressed that his government would allow members of the Afghan Peace Council to meet senior Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was freed by Pakistan, apparently at Mr. Karzai’s request. This would encourage a process of national reconciliation to make some headway.

Afghanistan’s Grand Council, Loya Jirga, has already approved the proposed BSA. However, Mr. Karzai’s government maintains that the pact can go through only after next year’s presidential elections.

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