Thursday, November 17, 2011

Karzai Details Vision for Long-Term Partnership With U.S.

At the Lisbon NATO Summit, the US-European alliance made an open ended commitment to Afghanistan. NATO 3.0 has the details.


At turns nationalistic and pragmatic, Mr. Karzai, addressing the loya jirga, the traditional Afghan council gathering, called for a long-term agreement that would put detailed limits on American military operations while ensuring they could continue beyond the present 2014 deadline to withdraw troops. He evoked an image of a nation still fiercely proud, and even dangerous, if weakened by years of war.

“We should be respected as lions on our own soil,” he said, speaking for nearly an hour in a strong voice, although he looked tired. “In this case we are ready to sign a strategic partnership with the United States. If they want military facilities, we are ready to give them, but Afghanistan, its vision, its interests, should be clear.”

If his speech charted a confident path, it was also a very difficult one: trying to keep ambitious neighbors at bay by casting his lot with the Americans, convincing regional leaders hostile to an American presence that it is vital, and pinning the United States down to long-term military and financial help despite a budget crisis and electoral politics in Washington.

“President Karzai seemed to be playing to all constituencies,” said a Western diplomat here, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Karzai spoke in some detail about his terms in the strategic partnership document that his government is negotiating with the United States, giving the clearest outline in some months about his current thinking.