Officers in the Afghan army fighting to contain the Taliban insurgency have called on the country's President, Hamid Karzai, to sign a security agreement that would keep a small number of American troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year.
The Washington Post reports that soldiers have openly called for Karzai to sign the deal in the Afghan media, despite being officially made to keep silent on the topic. One general who called for the agreement's signing in an interview with a Kabul television station last month told the Post that he was later placed on leave by officials at Afghanistan's Defense Ministry and expects to be formally fired soon.
"If the international community leaves, there is no question that we will lose ground to the Taliban." Col. Mohammad Dost told The Post. "It's the biggest worry for every soldier now."
"If the Americans leave, Afghanistan will be a lone sheep, left in the desert for the wolves to eat," Capt. Abdul Zahir told the paper.
The security agreement was reached between Karzai and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry this past November and was ratified by the loya jirga council of prominent Afghans days later. However, Karzai has refused to sign the deal himself, appearing content to leave the matter to his successor. Afghans will vote on their next President April 5.
The agreement not only governs the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan past 2014, but also ensures a steady supply of funding for the Afghan security forces. Afghan soldiers tell the Post that without U.S. support, they would not be paid their salaries. Even if Congress does appropriate funding for Afghan forces in the event the agreement goes unsigned, oversight of its distribution would be impossible without U.S. troops on the ground.
The U.S. has reportedly spent $50 billion on various aspects of the 352,000-man Afghan security forces. Without the ongoing presence of the estimated 12,000 U.S. and NATO troops called for by the agreement's implementation, Afghan soldiers say that they would lose such military resources as artillery training, logistical assistance, and aerial support from U.S. jets and helicopters.