e-Newsletter: Strategic Partnership Agreement Symbolic Of U.S. Commitment to Afghanistan

Strategic Partnership Agreement Symbolic of U.S. Commitment to Afghanistan, Dressler Says

On April 22, the United States and Afghanistan completed the initial drafts of a strategic partnership agreement that will outline the U.S.’s role in Afghanistan beyond the withdrawal of combat troops at the end of 2014.  The agreement comes after months of negotiations, at a time when recent incidents by U.S. forces and debates over the release of Taliban detainees have strained relations with the Afghan government. The agreement precedes a NATO summit in Chicago scheduled for May 20 at which details of exactly how much funding and support the U.S. and other allies will provide to the Afghan security forces after 2014 will be decided.

“The content of the agreement is probably less important than the symbolic message it sends to neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran, neither of which were interested in seeing a long- term commitment to the Afghan state,” says ISW Senior Research Analyst Jeffrey Dressler. “The most important issue was getting the agreement signed before the Chicago conference in May. This now paves the way for the international community, who may have been hesitant without a firm commitment from the U.S., to follow suit and commit to the future stability needs of the Afghan state.”

Dressler recently wrote a report on the Haqqani Network, the most dangerous insurgent group operating in Afghanistan, which works closely with al Qaeda and its affiliates. “ The Haqqani Network: A Strategic Threatcharts the spread of the Haqqani network in eastern Afghanistan.

As part of negotiations with the Taliban, the U.S. government has considered returning certain detainees at Guantanamo Bay to the Middle East. In “ Releasing Taliban Detainees: A Misguided Path to Peace,”  Dressler and fellow analyst Isaac Hock take a closer look at six of the high-profile detainees whose freedom is being negotiated and whether those negotiations will serve U.S. counterrorism objectives. 

ISW Senior Research Analyst Paraag Shukla has taken a closer look at the shifting political dynamics in Afghanistan in two recent backgrounders. In “ Electoral Reform Critical Before Afghanistan’s Next Election,” Shukla writes about what we can learn from Afghanistan’s past elections in order to make the 2014 parliamentary election run more smoothly.

“The Afghan government relies largely on foreign assistance to conduct its elections, so the international community has the power to press the Afghan government for positive reform,” Shukla writes. “Such improvements would reinforce the credibility of the Afghan government and improve perceptions among the population of their role in the future of their country.”

In “ Karzai Appoints Four Provincial Governors,” Shukla vets the men Karzai recently appointed as governor in Sar-e Pul, Logar, Uruzgan, and Farah provinces. Afghan law allows the president to replace governors in the 34 provinces at will, so Karzai has used that power to secure the backing of local powerbrokers and influence their constituencies.

Syria’s Opposition Becoming More Organized, ISW Report Finds

As UN monitors arrive and the international leaders continue to debate how to support the opposition in Syria, the next step may be determining who would lead if President Bashar al-Assad’s government falls. In “ Syria’s Political Opposition,” researcher Elizabeth O’Bagy examines the Syrian National Council, the National Coordination Committee and the grassroots protest movement.

“The established political coalitions such as the SNC have articulated a national vision for a post-Assad future and have received nominal support from the international community, yet they lack strong networks and popular legitimacy inside Syria,” she writes. “On the other hand, the grassroots political opposition has gained the support of the people, but it lacks a national vision and united front as the basis for international support.”

In a companion report, “ Syria’s Armed Opposition,” Senior Research Analyst Joseph Holliday delves into the umbrella organization for many of the country’s internal opposition groups. The Free Syrian Army is certainly a fighting organization with which the United States can engage in discussions about practical support,” Holliday writes.

Iran Bypassing Oil Sanctions, ISW Backgrounder Explains

Senior Naval Analyst Christopher Harmer explores the effects sanctions are having on Iran’s ability to export oil in “ Iranian Efforts to Bypass Oil Sanctions.”

“International sanctions have made it more difficult for Iran to export oil, which is the major source of funding for the Iranian regime, but the sanctions have not significantly reduced exports,” Harmer writes.

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The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.