The Afghanistan Foundation (AF) expressed cautious optimism about the military and security situation in Afghanistan following the two-day visit to the country of U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta last week.
Concern about the ongoing closure of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to NATO/ISAF supply convoys, and the deadly ambushes of scores of NATO fuel trucks in Pakistan, continue to put a damper on Afghanistan’s prospects for political and economic stability.
“The recent visit of U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to Afghanistan earlier this week sends an important and high-level signal regarding America’s, and the international community’s, ongoing effort to bring security and stability to the country and region,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Afghanistan Foundation in Washington, D.C. “Many policymakers in Brussels, Washington, D.C., and Capitol Hill, are concerned, however, by the ongoing closure of key border checkpoints, and NATO/ISAF supply routes, by Pakistan’s military following the unfortunate and tragic attacks that resulted in the deaths of numerous Pakistani Army soldiers last month,” Smith continued.
“Without the reopening of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, so that U.S. military and NATO/ISAF forces can be re-supplied in a cost-effective and timely fashion, the prospects for Afghanistan’s security, and the Karzai government, remain difficult and increasingly bleak.” Smith stated: “As a clear result of recent unprecedented developments and deepening concern, on Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives froze some $700 million in American foreign assistance to Pakistan out of alarm regarding the deteriorating Afghanistan and Pakistan relationship and America’s counter-terrorism efforts in South Asia.”
“When, if ever, will the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency allow trucks into Afghanistan to re-supply the U.S. military and NATO/ISAF forces ?,” Smith questioned. “Clearly, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI Director General Lt General Shuja Pasha, have expressed their deepest concern and regrets about the tragic deaths of the 24 Pakistan soldiers along the Afghanistan border and are, therefore, moving forward very cautiously with the interests of Pakistan at the forefront.”
“The slated withdrawal of ISAF/NATO forces by 2014 remains increasing problematic in terms of Afghanistan’s future economic and political security, if the Khyber Pass and other border supply routes continue to be closed, and more NATO supply and fuel convoys continue to be ambushed and destroyed in large numbers in Pakistan,” Smith concluded. Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke to American soldiers at Forward Operating Base Sharana, a military installation in Afghanistan's eastern Paktika province. He expressed the view that the United States, with its military forces deployed in Afghanistan, was helping to win the war with its ISAF allies.
Pakistan continues to insist that deadly NATO attacks on two border posts, along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, were deliberate. At least 24 Pakistani soldiers were reportedly killed by NATO/ISAF forces on November 26 causing Pakistan to seal the border with Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Army is reportedly considering a plan to potentially re-open the border crossing points to Afghanistan, including the Khyber Pass, whereby it would impose a hefty tax on fuel and trucks transporting supplies to U.S. and NATO/ISAF forces there. On Wednesday, after debate, the U.S. House of Representatives froze some $700 million in American assistance to Pakistan.