US troops to stay in Afghanistan till 2024: envoy
WASHINGTON: A US plan to keep some combat troops and an effective air power in Afghanistan is having a positive impact not only on the internal situation but also Kabul’s neighbours, says a senior US diplomat. According to the plan, outlined recently in the US media, American troops will stay in Afghanistan until 2024 as Washington will not allow the Taliban to take over that country.
The Obama administration’s new Afghan policy, although already reported by various media outlets, has now also been confirmed by the outgoing US ambassador to Kabul, Ryan Crocker.
In two separate interviews to the US media this week; Mr Crocker made it clear that the American military — including some combat troops — will stay in Afghanistan for at least 10 years after the expected US withdrawal in 2014.
Reports in the US media say the troops will include Special Forces soldiers and an effective air power to contain the rebels.
In his interview to Wall Street Journal, Mr Crocker said the new plan was also acceptable to Pakistan, which recently allowed two Taliban representatives to travel to Japan to attend a June 28 international conference on Afghanistan.
Asked whether he thought the meeting represented a step for Afghan-to-Afghan reconciliation, Mr Crocker said: “There’s definitely smoke — and some fire.”
He noted that the Kyoto meeting may have had some tacit support from Pakistan, where much of the top Taliban leadership is based.
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, he said, was likely keeping tabs on insurgents and their travels. “They had to get out of Pakistan to get there,” Mr Crocker said. “My guess is that the ISI said, ‘OK’.”
The US diplomat gave two reasons for this change in the ISI’s and Taliban’s attitude: One, Pakistan is increasingly feeling the ‘blowback’ of terrorism, two, the US plan to stay in Afghanistan at least up to 2024.
The US plan, he argued, had made it abundantly clear that Washington would not accept a Taliban takeover in Kabul.