Possible U.S. Troop Withdrawal Plan Worries Afghan Officials

The U.S. and Afghanistan have spent months discussing a long-term security pact that would keep as many as 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for years to come. But the New York Times and Reuters are reporting that President Obama is now considering removing all troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year. Afghan parliamentarians and officials are reacting with anger — mostly towards President Hamid Karzai. Officials say Afghanistan needs U.S. troops to stay beyond 2014 to prevent the collapse of a fragile security situation, and they blame Karzai for playing games and pushing Obama to the brink.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. President Obama has not yet decided how many troops to keep in Afghanistan after the NATO mission ends in 2014. The Pentagon and the White House both confirmed that today. Their comments follow a New York Times report that the president is seriously considering withdrawing all troops by the end of next year.

And as NPR's Sean Carberry reports from Kabul, talk about the so-called zero option is not sitting well with Afghan officials.

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Shukria Barakzai is on the defense committee of Afghanistan's lower house of parliament.

SHUKRIA BARAKZAI: We are worried.

CARBERRY: She says the news of a possible total withdrawal was a complete shock.

BARAKZAI: And I believe sends a kind of message bringing a huge confusion in the minds of the Afghan people.

CARBERRY: She says that Afghans are worried about being abandoned by the international community and this news can only feed that insecurity. The U.S. and Afghanistan have spent months discussing a long-term security pact that would keep as many as 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to continue training Afghan forces. But when an attempt to start peace talks with the Taliban last month imploded, Karzai lashed out at the U.S. and suspended negotiations on the security agreement.

BARAKZAI: I understand the frustration of President Obama.

CARBERRY: But Barakzai says abandoning Afghanistan isn't the answer.

BARAKZAI: At the end, that would be the people of Afghanistan receiving the punishment, not President Karzai.

CARBERRY: Parliamentarian Abdul Hafiz Mansoor isn't convinced the U.S. would really withdraw all its troops prematurely.

ABDUL HAFIZ MANSOOR: (Speaking foreign language)

CARBERRY: It's a warning to Karzai, he says. Karzai should be very careful about taking such a strong position against the U.S. A number of officials and analysts here believe that Karzai is overplaying his hand, that he believes Obama wants to keep troops in Afghanistan so badly, he will cave to any demand.

RAMAZAN BASHARDOST: (Speaking foreign language)

CARBERRY: Parliamentarian Ramazan Bashardost says that's not the case and he warns that Karzai wouldn't last another day if the U.S. withdraws its political and military support. Hamidullah Farooqi, spokesman for an Afghan political party, says that all of the gains of the last 12 years will be lost if the U.S. leaves.

HAMIDULLAH FAROOQI: Our national security teams are not strong enough to defend without the United States' help and support.

CARBERRY: Officials here are hoping the possibility of the so-called zero option will push Karzai to soften his tone and restart talks with the U.S. Sean Carberry, NPR News, Kabul.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.