US-Afghan pact sends warning to al-Qaida

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A new strategic partnership that commits the U.S. to defend Afghanistan militarily for 10 years after most foreign forces leave in 2014 is intended to signal that the U.S. will not tolerate a resurgent al-Qaida or attacks launched by militants from neighboring Pakistan.

The agreement, parts of which were read out Monday in the Afghan parliament, is big on symbolism but light on substance. It leaves out specifics, including how much funding the U.S. will provide to support Afghan security forces or how many U.S. troops will stay on after the withdrawal deadline.

Afghanistan, for its part, insisted on approving any American military operations after 2014 and barred the U.S. from using its soil to attack other countries, such as neighboring Pakistan, where the Taliban, al-Qaida and al-Qaida-linked militants all have staging bases.

“In the end, of course, the U.S. and allied interests differ from those of most Afghans,” said Andrew Exum, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington.

“The United States is most concerned with dismantling al-Qaida, while Afghans are most concerned with what infrastructure and financing the United States and its allies will provide beyond 2014.”

The accord is meant to reassure the Afghan people that the U.S. won’t abandon them, to send a warning to the Taliban and to serve notice to Pakistan, which many analysts believe has been waiting for a U.S. withdrawal that would allow the Taliban to reassert power, giving Islamabad strategic control over its neighbor.

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