Presidential advisor warns against early Afghan troop withdrawal
The security advisor to the Afghan president called on the international community Thursday not to fix prematurely a date for the withdrawal of its troops, saying such a move would only encourage the insurgents, DPA reported.
Rangin Dadfar Spanta said if a withdrawal date is fixed before the country is able to fend for itself, it would send the "wrong signal" to the insurgents, telling them "there is no exit strategy, and you can do what you want in a year or two - we are leaving in any event."
The former foreign minister said he understood the concerns of the public in troop-contributing nations, particularly Germany where the fight in Afghanistan is losing support.
But he emphasized that the debate should be pragmatic, not populistic. A premature retreat would cause Afghanistan to lose "all the benefits - education, freedom of the press, healthcare, women's and human rights," which have been gained since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001.
Spanta also predicted that an early withdrawal by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would allow the Taliban to return to power, turning Afghanistan back into a safe haven for terrorists.
The most effective opponent of the Taliban, he said, was not "the simple Afghan farmer" but rather "democracy, human rights, women's rights, and the lifestyle you lead in your countries."
The Taliban "fight us, because we represent Western decadence. They hate us, because we say that women have the right to an education. But the home of women's and human rights is on your continent," he told the German Press Agency dpa.
Spanta said he fears an increase in insurgent violence this year, whose calendar holds such alluring targets for terrorists as the council of elders - or loya jirga - for reconciliation in early May, the international conference on Afghanistan in June and the parliamentary elections in September.
All military conflicts end with peace negotiations, Spanta said. "We must take all available measures to offer respectable prospects to those who are ready to start a peaceful life." This should not stand, however, for those who refuse to renounce the al-Qaeda terror network, he added.
Spanta further underlined that neighbouring Pakistan has a "key role" to play in any lasting solution in Afghanistan, given Islamabad's influence over the Taliban.