Obama and Karzai meet to discuss end of war

Mon, May 21, 2012, 01:00

A TWO-DAY Nato summit in Chicago started yesterday with a meeting between President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai. The main purpose of the summit is to discuss, in Mr Obama’s words, “our plans to responsibly end the war in Afghanistan”.

Earlier this month, Mr Obama travelled to Kabul to conclude a partnership agreement with Mr Karzai which “reflects a future in which two sovereign nations . . . are operating as partners to the benefit of our countries’ citizens but also for the benefit of peace and security and stability” in the region, Mr Obama said.

The US has promised to pay $2.3 billion (€1.8 billion), a year, of the $4.1 billion it will cost annually to maintain the Afghan security forces for the decade after Nato combat troops leave in 2014 .

Mr Obama is seeking $1.3 billion in pledges from Nato allies, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, at the summit. The transition must be completed, Mr Karzai said yesterday, “so that Afghanistan is no longer a burden” to the international community.

Mr Obama’s critics say his departure schedule ignores military strategy and conditions in the country.

From the summer of 2013, the US will cease leading combat operations. US and other Nato troops will revert to a “support role,” deferring to Afghan forces.

In his new book, Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, the New York Times journalist David Sanger writes that after Mr Obama reluctantly increased US troop numbers in Afghanistan by 30,000 in 2009, an aide told him the generals had gone along with the temporary surge because they thought they could get more time if they needed it.

“Well, I’m not going to give them more time,” Mr Obama said, then proceeded to cut the military out of plans for the withdrawal.

The Taliban released a lengthy statement hours before the summit started, offering hope of a political solution to the civil war in Afghanistan but accusing the alliance of “wavering” in negotiations. “The Islamic Emirate has left all military and political doors open,” said the statement, which was written in English and attributed to the Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. “However the invaders are utilising a one step forward, two steps backwards tactic. They are conjuring artificial excuses to prolong the occupation of Afghanistan.”

The “prolonged occupation” to which the Taliban refer is the provision under the Karzai-Obama agreement that some US soldiers will remain in Afghanistan until 2024. The Taliban broke off negotiations in March, after the Qur’an was burned on a US base and a US soldier killed 16 Afghans in a house-to-house shooting spree.

Mr Obama was expected to unveil a raft of measures yesterday that will devolve responsibility from the US to Nato, including command of the US-built missile defence systems in Poland and Romania, a radar station in Turkey and Aegis war-ships with radar and interceptor missiles.

In the offensive in Libya last year, the alliance had to rely on US surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. To fill this gap in Nato capabilities, the alliance is set to buy five Global Hawk surveillance drones, the New York Times reported.

Occupy protesters were to hold their largest demonstration yesterday in a march from Grant Park to the lakeside convention centre where the summit is held.

On Saturday, Chicago police filed terrorism charges against three men described as “self-identifying anarchists”. The men allegedly planned to attack Mr Obama’s campaign headquarters, the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, police stations and financial institutions with Molotov cocktails. Bail was set at $1.5 million each.

The G8 summit, that ended at Camp David on Saturday, issued a statement on global oil markets predicting “the likelihood of further disruptions in oil sales” when an embargo on Iranian oil begins on July 1st, removing more than two million barrels from world markets each day. The International Energy Agency was asked “to take appropriate action to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied.”