Importance of Staying Course in Afghanistan
March 16, 2012
In Kabul Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for NATO forces
to pull back from Afghan villages, following Sunday's killing of 16
civilians in southern Afghanistan, allegedly by a U.S. soldier.
Karzai reportedly told U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that he wants
the Afghan forces to take full control of the country's security in 2013
rather than 2014.
But speaking to reporters in Kabul Thursday, the U.S. defense secretary
said the U.S., NATO and the Afghan leadership are in agreement on the
strategy to hand over security responsibility to Afghan security forces.
He said control will gradually be handed over to Afghan forces beginning
in 2013, culminating with the withdrawal of most American combat troops
by the end of 2014.
We are on the right path. I am absolutely convinced of that but the key
right now is to stick to that path. And if we do anything precipitous to
back away from that, I think that, in my mind, could very well
jeopardize our mission, said Panetta.
He also said President Karzai accepted the U.S. military's decision to
try the U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghans, many of them women
and children, under U.S. military law. The killing happened on Sunday
near a military base in Kandahar.
I again pledged to him that we are proceeding with the full
investigation here and that we will bring the individual involved to
justice. And he accepted that and hoped that it could be a transparent
process so that the Afghanistan people would see that the Unites States
is indeed going to not only prosecute this individual, but ensure that
he is held accountable, Panetta said.
Some members of the Afghan parliament had demanded that the soldier be
tried in Afghanistan and were incensed to learn he had been moved late
Wednesday to a U.S. military detention facility in Kuwait.
The incident adds to the intense anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan
following the inadvertent burning of Qurans at an American military base
in February, which sparked a week of violent nationwide protests and
deadly attacks on U.S. troops.
for a broad political power sharing agreement to resolve the Afghan
conflict also dimmed Thursday, with the Taliban announcing it was
suspending peace talks with the United States. The Taliban also said any
negotiations with the Afghan government were pointless and that none had
Panetta said he remains optimistic, however, insisting progress is being
made in improving the Afghan forces' operational capability. He also
said he is confident the U.S. and Afghanistan will soon agree on a
strategic partnership that will permit a reduced U.S. military presence
after 2014 for counter-terrorism purposes and to support Afghan troops,
Both sides recently overcame a major obstacle to the partnership when
the U.S. agreed to transfer control of its main military detention
center to Afghanistan. Panetta says they will soon come up with an
agreement to end night raids by the U.S. military raids, which have been
another issue of contention.