KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s president has branded his U.S. allies as corrupt, wasteful and contemptuous of Afghan lives. Once he even threatened to join the Taliban. Nonetheless, Hamid Karzai signed a deal that could keep thousands of U.S. troops in his country for years.
Despite his rhetoric, Karzai needs international support if Afghanistan is to survive economically and avoid descending into civil war like it did when the Soviets left two decades ago.
The signing of the long-term strategic partnership, which will govern the relationship between the two countries from the end of 2014 until 2024, was welcomed Wednesday by leading Afghans as a positive message that the West will not turn its back on their country.
The agreement also gives Afghanistan much-needed military support to deal with an insurgency that shows no signs of abating.
Less than two hours after President Barack Obama left Afghanistan early Wednesday, the Taliban carried out a brazen suicide attack in the capital against a heavily fortified compound housing hundreds of foreigners, killing at least seven Afghan civilians.
“Karzai was thinking that maybe it is good for the national interest of Afghanistan, its stability, peace and security. Without the Americans, peace and stability is difficult,” said Wahid Muzhda, a leading political analyst and ethnic Pashtun, the community from which the Taliban draws most of their members.
Even neighboring Pakistan, which has been accused by the United States of not doing enough to dismantle insurgent safe havens on its territory, would benefit from a continued American presence in Afghanistan, some analysts said.
Riffat Hussain, a professor of Defense Studies at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, acknowledged that some Pakistani officials, especially in the military, are worried that the U.S.-supported Afghan government is too cozy with Pakistan’s archenemy, India.
But he said many officials are even more concerned about what will happen in Afghanistan if international forces leave.