Thoughts on the Strategic Partnership Agreement between U.S. and Afghanistan

Published in KHAAMA PRESS

I had a chance to read through the full text of the Strategic Agreement between Afghanistan and the United States attached below. Here are some of the points that stood out to me the most. I am less concerned about the political features and more interested in the economic and development components of the Pact. However, it is important to mention a couple of political pieces of the treaty.

First, the Agreement states that “[t]he Parties [Afghanistan and the US] … pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the people of the United States in this struggle.” While I do commend Americans, and their government for their sacrifices – both human and monetary sacrifices -, it is important to note that the Agreement should have acknowledged the sacrifices made by Afghans, too. We – Afghans and Americans – are equally harmed by this fight against terrorism. We both have lost lives, and treasure. The Pact should have instead indicated that the Parties should pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the people of Afghanistan and the United States in this struggle.

Second, the agreement calls Afghanistan a “Major Non-NATO Ally.” This is significant for two main reasons. This designation confers a variety of military and financial advantages that otherwise are not obtainable. It allows Afghanistan to use American financing for the purchase of certain defense equipment, and permits entry into research and development projects with the Pentagon on a shared-cost basis. Also, Afghanistan is the first nation to receive this title from President Barak Obama, while George W. Bush designated 6 countries as non-NATO allies.

On the economic and development front, there are a few major points in this agreement that I would like to highlight. First, it encourages Afghanistan to pursue consolidation and growth of a market economy, taking into consideration its historical and social realities. In other words, the US is hopeful that Afghanistan can have an open market economy, not similar to the US, but an economy that severs the culture, religion and the people well. To achieve this goal, according to the Agreement, the US will help strengthen and develop Afghanistan in the areas of agriculture, transportation, trade, and energy infrastructure. These are all critical sectors of the Afghan economy. Also, the US will encourage private investment in Afghanistan.

Most importantly, the Pact shows a strong desire that the Afghan people should be the primary beneficiaries of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth. The US will support Afghanistan to govern its natural resources through a framework that is accountable, efficient, effective and transparent. As I argued in my article Mineral: The Blood Diamond of Afghanistan, the Afghan government doesn’t have the capacity to develop its minerals now. Let’s get the tools first, and then exploit the natural resources.  That way the earnings will be greater, and the primary beneficiaries will be the Afghan people.

Finally, one more point that I found significant in this Agreement is the United States’ commitment to promote exchange programs such as Fulbright and other similar programs. As a Youth Exchange and Study program (YES) alum, I can attest to the benefit of such exchange programs. It definitely helps develop Afghanistan’s human resources in the long run.

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