As Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai prepares for a visit to the United States, Iran has made it plain that it opposes the presence of American troops on Afghan soil after a formal exit in 2014.
Using a convoluted formulation, the visiting head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili said in Kabul that not only should “aliens” leave the country, Afghanistan’s national sovereignty must also always be respected. Mr. Jalili — fresh from his visit to India where Afghanistan’s transition post-2014 was a salient topic for discussion — praised the Afghan people’s “historical background in not accepting aliens”. He added that this was Afghanistan’s “big asset” that imparted a powerful impulse to preserve “national sovereignty”.
The New York Times reported that the Obama administration was considering maintaining a force of 3,000 to 9,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014. It noted that the U.S. and Afghanistan began talks in November on a possible agreement that would authorise an American troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
“Any force that remains is expected to have several missions. It would include Special Operations forces, which would be assigned to carry out raids against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups that are deemed to threaten American interests,” said the report. The write-up also observed that “troops would also advise and mentor the Afghan Army and police in conjunction with forces from other NATO nations”.
On the contrary, Mr. Jalili signalled a regional approach, free from foreign presence, for providing security and enabling nation-building in Afghanistan.
“He [Mr. Jalili] expressed pleasure with process of formation and consolidation of national government in Afghanistan and expressed Iran’s readiness to transfer its experiences in different fields for more security development, progress and prosperity for Afghan people,” reported the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) following Mr. Jalili’s meeting with Mr. Karzai on Saturday.
Apart from the Iranians, the Russians have also declared their opposition to the presence in Afghanistan of American forces that are not mandated by the United Nations Security Council. In an interview with Afghan website Tolonews, Russian Foreign Minister stated that he found it “strange that while insisting that in 2014 the American troops, NATO troops I assume, would leave Afghanistan, at the same time Washington discusses with Afghanistan very purposefully the establishment of four five military bases for the post 2014 period”. He added: “I don’t think why this should be done this way because if you need the military presence, then you continue the implement the mandate of the Security Council. If you don't want to implement the mandate of the Security Council or you believe that you have implemented the mandate already, but still want to establish and keep the military bases, I don’t think it's logical.”
Separately, the Taliban has issued a statement berating Mr. Karzai for undertaking his journey to Washington “to sign a security pact which would pave the way for the presence of American troops in Afghanistan and through which America would continue its crooked policies in the region”. The Talban warned Washington that if it believes “it can implement its malicious policies and find a secure base for itself by leaving a residual troops presence then we clearly state that these dreams are only dreams which can and will not materialise just as they failed to materialise in the past eleven years”.
During his visit, Mr. Jalili also discussed with Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, Afghanistan’s national security advisor, the expansion of the transit corridor from the Iranian port of Chabahar into Afghanistan — a move that would reduce the landlocked country’s dependence on Pakistani ports for its trade.