U.S., Afghanistan discuss ‘military bases’ in region

Afghanistan and the U.S. are negotiating on the establishment of long-term U.S. military bases on the territory of the Islamic Republic, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said at a press conference in Kabul.

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan

According to Russian Information Agency, Karzai explained the negotiations with the U.S. need to deal with al-Qaeda and Taliban.

Emphasizing long-term nature of strategic relations with the United States, Karzai said he hoped that this cooperation would bring Afghanistan security and economic prosperity.

However, he noted that the documents on the establishment of the bases will be submitted to the parliament and would need to be approved.

Karzai also noted that Afghanistan was not going to provide its territory for the creation of military bases which could be used as a platform for aggression against neighboring states.

According to the Voice of America, as early as in 2005 Senator John McCain had called on Washington to make its military presence in Afghanistan permanent.  Reactions from Afghanistan’s neighbors to this  move are mixed.

In 2005, Retired Pakistani Lieutenant General Talat Masood said officials in Islamabad didn’t mind to see a permanent U.S. presence, which they believed could provide support in the event of hostilities with rival India.

“Pakistan, to be honest with you, I think they will not mind that,” he said, “because they may think that is it is a good way to countervail India, provided they [Pakistan] themselves have good relations with the U.S.”

But now Pakistan – U.S. relationship has worsened due to recent arrest of an American, identified by the Pakistanis as Raymond Allen Davis, who has diplomatic immunity and should not have been held after he shot two men trying to rob him in the eastern city of Lahore on Jan. 27. The U.S. has frozen all  negotiations with the Pakistani government since then.

Most probably many will see the creation of U.S. bases as a sign pointing to the fact that Washington seeks to dominate the region. And it will definitely upset Iran, Afghanistan’s neighbor to the west.

General Masood said a U.S. decision to keep bases in Afghanistan could be partly out of a desire to contain Iran and monitor its forces. He said the United States also wants to keep as many bases near the Middle East as possible to ensure stability in the region, which has vital petroleum reserves.

Recently Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said that having a few U.S. air bases in Afghanistan would be a benefit to the region and would give Afghan security forces an edge against the Taliban, Associated Press reported.

“The idea of putting permanent military bases on the table in 2011, I think would secure our national interest and tell the bad guys and the good guys we’re not leaving, we’re staying, in a responsible way if the Afghan people want us to stay… And if the Afghan people want this relationship, they’re going to have to earn it…And a couple of air bases in Afghanistan will give us an edge militarily, give the Afghan security forces an edge militarily, to ensure that country never goes back into the hands of the Taliban , which would be a stabilizing event throughout the whole region. That has to be earned by the Afghan people, and it has to be requested by them,” Graham said.

However, it seems it is already not to Afghan people to decide whether or not the bases should be established.

The United States has been building major facilities in Afghanistan for years. By 2004, the Pentagon said the Army Corps of Engineers had built 186 barracks buildings and 22 administration buildings for the Afghan army, according to Washington Post.

Massive construction of barracks, training areas, headquarters, warehouses and airfields for use by U.S. and Afghan security forces — which could reach $4 billion — signaled a long-term U.S. military commitment long ago, at a time when then incoming official Obama administration’s policy for the Afghan war was still unclear.

Meanwhile, security problems were increasing since 2009, not only at construction sites but also in the effort to truck materials into landlocked Afghanistan from Pakistan. Contract employees were being attacked, kidnapped and killed. That could be a clear sign that Afghanistan people were not really willing “to earn” the existence of bases.

However, President Karzai confirmed recently that from March 21, 2011 (Beginning of a new Afghan year), the responsibility for security in the country will be gradually transferred to Afghan security forces. This process will be completed in 2014.

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