Karzai demands guarantee for financial support from US

Afghan president Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that any postwar deal between Washington and Kabul must include an annual payout plan detailing how the Department of Defense will financially support the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). 

“They are providing us money, there is no doubt about that. But they say they will not mention the amount in the agreement," Karzai said in a Tuesday speech regarding past U.S.-Afghan negotiations on the subject, according to the Washington Post. 

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"We say: Give us less, but mention it in the agreement. Give us less, but write it down,”  he added. 

Pentagon estimates state the ANSF will need roughly $4 billion per year from the United States. On Tuesday, Karzai said he would be willing to accept a guarantee of $2 billion annually.

Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, told Congress last month that the DOD could afford to dedicate $1 billion a year to finance local security forces in Afghanistan. 

Whatever that figure ends up being, it must be included in the pending Strategic Partnership Agreement being negotiated between the United States, NATO and Afghanistan. 

That deal will set the groundwork for American involvement in Afghanistan past the White House's withdrawal deadline of 2014. That is when all U.S. and coalition troops are scheduled to leave the country. Roughly 23,000 American soldiers are set to rotate out of Afghanistan this summer. 

Karzai's comments cap a weeklong push by top Afghan officials to ensure that American dollars will continue to flow even after U.S. troops have left the country. 

Afghan defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and interior minister Bismillah Mohammadi relayed that message to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey during a meeting last Tuesday at the Pentagon. 

The smaller U.S. investment Kabul is seeking is indicative of the success of the Afghan security forces, Wardak said during a speech last Thursday. 

More than 90 percent of all Afghans believe the Afghan army is ready to take over security operations from U.S. and coalition forces, Wardak said. 

The ANSF is already running detainee and night raid operations, with American support, in the country. 

But with Pentagon already trimming $500 billion from its coffers over the next decade, beginning in fiscal 2013, department priorities could overshadow those in Afghanistan.

Those outstanding questions on U.S. funding for Afghan forces, combined with plans to shrink those forces in 2017, has already raised a few eyebrows on Capitol Hill. 

During a March 22 meeting, Senate Armed Services Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) pressed Allen on how the DOD could fund Afghan forces when the Pentagon was already strapped for cash back home.

The Michigan Democrat pushed Allen on why Kabul needed the money when it was planning to cut the ANSF by one-third in the years after the United States pulls out. 

To that point, the level of U.S. funding is still open to debate and will be determined largely on whether Afghan forces can stand alone after 2014, Wardak said last Tuesday. 

“The security environment by itself will either agree with the figures or not ... that is something that is subject to revision,” Wardak told reporters after his meeting with Panetta and Dempsey. 

But in a letter sent to Panetta last Friday, House Armed Services chairman Rep. Buck McKeon questioned whether the ANSF could quell the Afghan insurgency without U.S. military hardware or support. 

"How will the [White House] ensure these operations are sustained against the tide of a larger U.S. drawdown?" McKeon wrote. 

Senior American, Afghan and NATO leaders hope to have a postwar deal completed before the alliance's annual meeting in Chicago next month. It remains unclear whether Karzai's demands for a financial guarantee will throw that timeline off track.