Jan 08 2013

Prospects for Peace in Afghanistan Dim As Karzai and Obama Discuss US Troop Withdrawal

As Afghan President Hamid Karzai visits Washington DC this week, high on the agenda in his talks with President Barack Obama is the manner and detail of US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Karzai has been publicly very critical of the US in recent months, relaying his dissatisfaction in speeches, particularly over issues of national sovereignty.

On Friday the Afghan government released 80 Afghan prisoners from Bagram Air Base as part of an agreement with the US. According to the New York Times, “the government made a public spectacle of releasing a large number together.” While the Karzai administration contends it is only releasing prisoners against whom no charges have been filed or not enough evidence of criminality exists, US officials have complained that many of those released are fighters who immediately return to the battlefield. More than 500 prisoners have been released within the past year.

A majority of the US troops currently serving in Afghanistan are expected to withdraw by 2014. While the US military had asked for 20,000 troops to remain, the Obama Administration has indicated that number remaining will likely be closer to 6,000 troops – those American soldiers who will be expected to continue their training of Afghan National Army forces.

Meanwhile, a tone of reconciliation has pervaded among power players in Afghanistan with both the Taliban and Afghan government members making verbal gestures toward peace. In neighboring Pakistan, the government there has released high level Taliban prisoners in an action that has been warmly welcomed by the Afghan government. But given that these gestures are originating from those with a history of fomenting violence in Afghanistan, many ordinary Afghans are skeptical of long-term prospects for peace.

GUEST: Kathy Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and travels regularly to Afghanistan where she works closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers

Visit www.vcnv.org for more information.

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