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This update is a summary of various news articles from open sources relating to US AFPAK policy and governance, economy, security and regional interests in Afghanistan and Western Pakistan. Please click on the links below to access the complete article from the internet. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries given below highlight only the portion of each article that is relevant and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Please note that the update includes articles, which use the British English spelling. Articles are taken from diverse regional, American and European media sources, reflecting a range of political views/biases, and are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. Opinions expressed in the articles/commentaries do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP staff.
Disclaimer: Articles are taken from established and diverse professional periodicals, news articles, and editorial commentaries from different countries, reflecting a range of political views/biases, that are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries may highlight only a portion of an article that is relevant to the readers and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Opinions expressed in the articles, commentaries and features do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP staff.
GOVERNANCE: DEMOCRACY & RULE OF LAW
US-Afghanistan Strategic Peace Agreement
Obama Visits Afghanistan to Sign Pact with Karzai
he US President Barack Obama arrived in Kabul late on the night of 1 May and signed an agreement on future Afghan-US ties with President Hamid Karzai, three weeks before the NATO summit on Afghanistan. Obama also marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden during a speech to US troops at the Bagram Military Airbase in north of Kabul. He met with Karzai to sign the agreement before leaving the country in the early hours of 2 May – a visit that in total lasted about seven hours. The signing of the deal with Karzai commits the US to assist Afghanistan for 10 years after NATO combat troops leave in 2014. Obama said that at the upcoming NATO summit, to be held in Chicago, the alliance would “set a goal” for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year. “I will not keep Americans in harm’s way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security,” he said.”But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan, and end this war responsibly.” (…) “Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that,” Obama said in his speech, which was broadcast to the US. He said that over the past three years “the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built strong Afghan security forces. We devastated al Qaeda’s leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders. And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin laden.” (TOLOnews)
US Must Respect Afghanistan’s Political System: Karzai
Afghan President Hamid Karzai dismissed calls for Afghanistan to change its political system to a Federal regime, saying the long-term agreement with the US was signed on the condition that the current centralized system of government be respected. Karzai said at a press conference in Kabul on 3 May, the day after the long-term pact was signed, that several US congressmen had called for the country’s regime to change its structure. “Some US congressman started intervening in Afghanistan several months ago and asked for the regime in Afghanistan to change to a federal system. I clearly told the US government that we will only sign the agreement with you if you respect the central government of Afghanistan,” Karzai said. The agreement guarantees a free election in Afghanistan without any intervention from any foreign state, he said. “In this agreement, we have included an important point which is that there should be no foreign intervention in Afghan elections,” he said. “Afghan elections should be free and in accordance with our own election rules and regulations. It should be held by Afghans, and all Afghans will participate. It should be protected from any kind on internal and external interference.” (TOLOnews)
ECONOMY, RECONSTRUCTION & DEVELOPMENT
Reconstruction & Development
SIGAR Report Finds Afghanistan Reconstruction Compromised By Security, Corruption
Afghan reconstruction efforts remain severely hampered even after nearly $100 billion in spending over the last 10 years, according to a new watchdog report. The most immediate challenge stems from the insistence by Afghanistan’s government that the private army of hired guns providing security for ongoing projects be replaced with Afghan locals, who do not appear to be up to the job, the report noted. The latest quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (or SIGAR) released on Monday also chronicles how corruption in the country shows no signs of having let up. The report’s most urgent warning concerns the “imminent transition” from private security contractors (PSC) to the state-owned Afghan Public Protection Force. Steven J. Trent, the acting special inspector general, expressed concerns that as many as 29 major USAID projects costing nearly $1.5 billion are at risk of full or partial termination “if the APPF cannot provide the needed security.” About half that amount has already been spent. And whether it can is very much an open question, Trent wrote. The U.S. embassy, the Afghan government and the U.S.-led military forces agreed a year ago to check the progress of the Afghan Public Protection Force at the 6-, 9-, and 12-month marks. “The 6-month assessment, completed in September 2011, found that the APPF was not ready to assume any of the essential PSC responsibilities to meet contract requirements — such as training, equipping, and deploying guard forces,” the report pointed out. “[T]he December assessment, which would have been at the 9-month mark, has not yet been made public” and “the deadline for the 12-month assessment has passed.” (Huffington Post)
NATO Troop Withdrawal Impacting Foreign Direct Investment: AISA
he complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, slated for 2014, is negatively impacting foreign investment in the country, according to the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA). AISA Investment Promotion Director Rohullah Ahmadzai said the agency has noticed a decline in interest in foreign direct investment since 2011 when the Nato-led combat mission named 2014 as the date for the troop withdrawal. “The issue of foreign forces withdrawing in 2014 has had a negative effect over the investment sector, and also over economic situation of all the country, because since 2011, simultaneous with our efforts to attract investment to Afghanistan, we had the announcement of the NATO withdrawal, so it might be the reason,” he told TOLOnews on 3 May. His statement referred to the decision of a multi-national joint venture (JV) withdrawing a request to build an industrial park in Afghanistan. Ahmadzai said the consortium had not officially announced its decision, but it had appeared to withdraw the request made four months ago. (TOLOnews)