Milestone Agreement
17 January, 2013
11-13 January, 2014 may be crucial for the 12-year long war, waged against Taliban in Afghanistan under ISAF. Right now, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is visiting Washington. He and American President Barak Obama reached a milestone agreement.
After the 3-day long meetings, President Obama stated that already in the spring of 2013 the coalition forces would cease major military operations. It means the prerogative of running such operations goes to the Afghan armed forces and that American militaries will ensure
only training and support functions.
This agreement is extremely important for all the ISAF countries including Georgia because Georgian Army and our society have experienced a number of painful moments during the Afghan mission since its start. Namely, the official ISAF data indicate that after autumn 2009 as many as 19 Georgian troops lost their lives and another 93 were wounded, constituting quite a tangible from direct participation of the Georgian units in military operations. To compare, all the ISAF forces combined have lost no less than 3250 troops since 2001, most of them - 918 - in Helmand province.
The first group of ISAF Georgian troops to arrive on Afghan soil in autumn 2009 counted 173 soldiers. They were stationed under the aegis of the French contingent at the Kabul airport. Had it been continued this way – i.e. sending no extra boots to Helmand province – we probably would not have sustained the losses. And neither NATO, nor Washington would have turned their tongue to criticize us. By the way, the majority of the North Atlantic Alliance members chose the right strategy by stationing their respective troops in calmer provinces, where they do not stick out even their noses beyond perimeters of respective bases irrespective of ISAF commands or requests.
Recently, Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania stated that after 2014, the year when the Afghan ISAF operation ends, the Georgian contingent stationed there would not take part in military operations anymore and instead would be involved in the training program for Afghan militaries.
The agreement concluded by Presidents of America and Afghanistan changes everything drastically. If ISAF forces will not participate in military operations already from spring as vowed by the American President himself, it means the Georgian troops would be likewise tacked away of the active frontline. Such a prospect would limit chances for Georgia to sustain serious casualties further on. Yet, one should not be so naive to think that thereafter the Afghan mission of the Georgian troops would turn into a holiday. With ISAF no more intent on attacking Taliban in 2014, the latter would surely continue the onslaught as it does now. As a result, ISAF troops, including the Georgian contingent, should brace themselves for such disturbances and be ready to repel the enemy forays. This however would be tantamount to returning to the regular military operations.
The best way out of the problem is a phase-wise pullout of the troops from Afghanistan. No one will term the move as a deviation from the path to NATO accession because Americans themselves are set to embark on the similar wind-down. Currently, they have 66 thousand troops in Afghanistan but plan to deflate the presence after ISAF to 6-15 thousand. This is certain. The only thing that remains to be specified is the date when it would start.