US not seeking to control Afghanistan beyond 2014: White House


Ahead of President Barack Obama’s talks this week with President Hamid Karzai on post-2014 American engagement with Afghanistan, the White House has said the US is not seeking to control the country or determine its politics.
The White House also reaffirmed its support for neighbouring Pakistan’s role in the ongoing Afghan-led political reconciliation drive.
Senior national security advisers also indicated that the US Administration is open to a so-called zero option that would involve leaving no American troops in Afghanistan after 2014, when the NATO combat mission there comes to an end. Meanwhile, a media report suggested the factions in the US administration are proposing a 2500-troops presence in Afghanistan beyond the official end to the war.
Ben Rhodes, a senior White House national security advisor, made it clear in a conference call with reporters that the US mission in Afghanistan after 2014 would focus on two objectives: training and equipping the Afghan forces and countering al-Qaeda-linked terror. “So it’s not our aim to control Afghanistan or to determine its politics after 2014. In fact, that is why we support an Afghan-led political process and we very much support a Pakistani role, because there has to be a regional buy into the future of stability in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and South Asia,” Rhodes, who is Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, said.
He was responding to a question about US discussions with President Karzai in light of the peace agreement Kabul is pursuing with Pakistanis, that, a reporter suggested, replaces the United States as the broker of direct, face-to-face talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Explaining the US position, Deputy Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for South Asia, Doug Lute, said Washington believes an “Afghan-led political process, a political settlement of some sort is absolutely essential to bringing the war to a responsible close.”
Lute, a retired general, also said: “I don’t agree, however, that an Afghan-led process means that somehow the US or Pakistan are going to play sort of dominant proxy roles.”
“This legitimately has to be an Afghan-owned and led process, which is why we welcomed very much several months ago the Afghan production of the five-phase roadmap, which we think is very reasonable, obtainable, realistic approach to the peace process.”
“Now, as Ben suggested, while we don’t imagine that either the United States or Pakistan are going to control this peace process, we both have important supporting roles to play as do other neighboring states and other international leaders to include international organizations. So this has got to be a bit of a team effort in terms of supporting the Afghan process, but the process itself has got to be owned by them,” he added.
Questioned about militant sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border, Lute said the US is “very close and continuous contact with our Pakistani partners.”
“The conversations we have and we continue to have with Pakistan feature how, together, we can get at these safe havens by some combination of military means, on behalf of the Pakistanis, but probably more promising, political means, which have us, the Afghans, and the Pakistanis working together to try to craft a political process that defeats these safe havens and brings the Afghan Taliban back into the political fold in Afghanistan.