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Understanding the U.S. security agreement with Afghanistan – Part 2

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So how important is this security agreement?

    Jeffrey Brown explores that.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And joining me is Barnett Rubin, former senior adviser to the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the State Department. He's now director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.

    Thanks for joining us.

    I will start with that very question. How important was it for the U.S. to get this agreement and why?

    BARNETT RUBIN, Former State Department official: It's important because it allows us to manage the transition toward Afghan self-reliance on security much more effectively.

    Afghan security forces still require a great deal of U.S. assistance and logistics expertise and, above all, I should say, funding, and keeping those forces there makes it much more likely that they will attain all of those.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Given the sensitivities that Margaret Warner just referred to in all of this, remind us exactly what these troops will do. We refer to a training and assistance. What does that mean exactly?

  • BARNETT RUBIN:

    It means that some of them will be working in headquarters. A few of them will be working at division level in the field, though they will not be engaged directly in combat activities.

    But there's a lot more to running an army than fighting. There is record-keeping, logistics, targeting, definition of strategy and so on. Those are all things in which these advisers will help them to maintain and develop their capabilities.

    In addition, it will give us additional eyes on the ground to help us understand the political evolution there as well. Now, it's — this is not a permanent deployment. President Obama has said that this advisory mission will last at most two years.

    It will have one other mission, which is what they call counterterrorism, but that will be limited to targeting those groups that specifically target the United States, in particular whatever remnants of al-Qaida there may be in Afghanistan. It won't be part of the effort against the Taliban.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And I wonder now, with a new president, is there a sense that the U.S. has a real and reliable ally in Ashraf Ghani, as opposed to Hamid Karzai?

  • BARNETT RUBIN:

    I think that both Ashraf Ghani and his chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, supported this agreement, and both of them have been quite consistent in their views.

    So I think that they will represent the interests of Afghanistan, which are not always the same as the interests of the United States. But they will be easier and more reliable to deal with.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And I suppose looming question for a lot of people as we watch what goes in Iraq is, what lessons have or should U.S. officials learn from that when they look at our Afghan policy now and develop that?

  • BARNETT RUBIN:

    Well, I think one lesson they should learn is not to compare Iraq and Afghanistan, because, in the past, falsely, the Bush administration drew the conclusion from the rather rapid collapse of the Taliban in Afghanistan that they could have a similarly easy victory in Iraq, and that was totally wrong.

    Iraq is a middle-income country with oil revenue. Afghanistan is an extremely poor country. I think, of course, the general lesson that you should try to maintain stability in your relationships is valid, but it was after all President Maliki in Iraq who refused to sign an agreement such as the one that President Ghani has signed in Afghanistan today.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    All right, Barnett Rubin, thank you so much.

  • BARNETT RUBIN:

    Thank you.

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