Evening everybody and welcome to In The News.  I’d like to talk today about the President’s recent trip to Afghanistan and the Security Pact he signed with the Afghan government while he was there.

President Obama recently made a surprise visit to Afghanistan to visit with the troops stationed there.  He was there to also, we later found out, sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghan president Hamid Karzai.  The agreement lays out the guidelines of what the US-Afghan relationship will look like beyond 2014, when US troops are scheduled to depart Afghanistan and combat operations there are expected to cease.  So I’d like to briefly touch on the agreement and some of its highlights now.

The agreement is being billed by the administration as a blueprint for a new chapter in US-Afghan relations.  One that ushers in a period of peace after the long period of war of the last 10 years.

Firstly, the plan pledges US support in building a strong, self-sustaining Afghan economy.  It states that both parties will cooperate in attracting and nurturing private sector investment, both from the US as well as from the international community.  This support will come in the form of yearly funds that will be devoted by the US to the development of the Afghan economy.  Now this pact doesn’t specifically state the exact amount of those funds, as only Congress has the power to authorize that type of spending.  It merely pledges that the administration will seek those funds, on a yearly basis, from Congress.

The plan designates Afghanistan a “Major Non-NATO Ally.”  Now, NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  And it’s basically a military agreement that states that members of the organization agree to come to each other’s defense in the event that they’re attacked by another party.  Designating Afghanistan a “Major Non-NATO Ally” means this automatic mutual defense agreement is not in effect.  But it does allow Afghanistan certain military and financial benefits that are otherwise not allowed to non-NATO countries.

The plan calls on Afghanistan to continue its commitment to free, fair, and transparent elections.  It also calls on the Afghan government to further its protections of human rights for all its citizens.

Now, in addition to the yearly funds dedicated to economic assistance, the plan also calls for the US to devote yearly funds to the support of the Afghan Security Forces.  This is an attempt to help Afghanistan bolster its own national security forces so that it can one day independently defend itself from both internal and external threats.  The plan also pledges further cooperation to counter common threats such as terrorism and drug trafficking.

The plan reaffirms the fact that the US does not seek permanent military facilities in Afghanistan.  It also pledges the US to not use Afghan territory as a launching pad for military operations against any other country.

The plan sets as a goal of one year for both parties to come to an agreement on a major Bilateral Security Agreement.  This Bilateral Security Agreement will set forth in much greater detail the military relationship between the US and Afghanistan beyond 2014. 

The present agreement will remain valid for 10 years.  It expires in 2024.  It allows for either the US or Afghanistan to withdraw from the pact with 1 year’s notice.

Now the US invaded Afghanistan in October of 2001.  And the invasion was largely in response to the 9/11 attacks, which were perpetrated by members of Al-Qaeda.  Al-Qaeda is an international organization but it was allowed to operate most freely in Afghanistan.  It found sympathetic philosophies and was given safe haven by Afghanistan’s ruling party at the time, the Taliban. 

The US has been in Afghanistan now for 11 years.  And this war has become the longest war in American history.  Longer than both World Wars, and longer than Vietnam.  And understandably, the American people’s support for the war has waned.  Recent polls show that over 60% of the American people now oppose our presence in Afghanistan.  Half of those who oppose it believe our presence there is actually doing more harm than good.  Now, there’s also the point of view expressed by many that staying in Afghanistan won’t make much of a difference at all.  That whether we leave this year or in 10 years, we’ll have the same level of progress to show for it.

I don’t know if I agree 100% with those assessments, but I do lean more toward them than not.  I believe the time has come for us to leave Afghanistan.  And we have to wind down our operations there as quickly as possible.  Now, we have to find a responsible way to do that, both for our sake as well as for the sake of the Afghan people.  But we have to find the fastest responsible way to do it.  Whether or not this pact is deemed a success, will depend on how much closer it gets us to that goal. 

That’s our show for this evening, it was a short one tonight.  We hope you enjoyed it.  And we hope you’ll join us again next time. As always please visit our page at blogtalkradio.com/inthenews for upcoming show times.  And remember that you can now follow us on twitter at twitter.com/inthenews1.  That’s twitter.com/inthenews, the number 1.  Thanks and Good night everybody.