12 September 2013, 17:28

US Air Force base in Afghanistan poses potential security threat to Iran, China - expert

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The United States has for the first time officially admitted that both part of its ground force and part of the US Air Force will remain deployed in Afghanistan after 2014. This came in a statement in an interview with The Washington Times daily by the Deputy Commander – Air, US, Forces – Afghanistan, Kenneth Wilsbach. It is still unclear whether the US Air Force will continue interacting with the Afghan National Army, the General said.

The bulk of the western troops are due to pull out of Afghanistan by late 2014. The strength of the remaining troops will be determined in keeping with a security pact that the US and Afghanistan have been unable to agree so far. The approximate strength of the remaining force, according to the Foreign Policy magazine, stands at 9,000 American servicemen and 6,000 servicemen form other NATO countries. These are likely to be deployed in the vicinity of modernized airfields, says Professor of the Russian Military University Oleg Kulakov.

According to Kulakov, the modernization of airbases in Bagram and Shindand was heavily funded. Updating the Herat airport also took a lot of time. Up-to-date equipment has been installed in Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif. Part of the land forces will most likely be deployed to the airport area.

The military will need supplies, and wounded servicemen have to be flown out. There is no way the military can do without transport aircraft, given Afghanistan’s rugged terrain. But the role that combat planes will play is not quite clear yet. The decreased US Air Force in Afghanistan will understandably be unable to effectively support ground troops. Now, the Afghan Air Force boasts helicopter gunships only, and cannot be effective enough for that reason. But fighting Taliban militants will hardly remain the US top priority in Afghanistan after 2014, when the Enduring Freedom military operation will be smoothly transformed into the Resolute Support operation. Evidence of this is the fact that Americans have been bending over backwards behind the scenes to reach agreement with Taliban, to ensure that Taliban will not attack the US troops after 2014; - hence General Wilsbach’s statement that the continuation of interaction with Afghans is yet undecided. The security pact is thus no more than a pretext for staying in Afghanistan for some more time, given that Americans pursue their own goals there, Oleg Kulakov claims.

“Afghanistan makes it possible for the US to monitor the national territory of Iran and Pakistan", Kulakov says. "Pakistan is important for the US in many ways. The Pakistani regime is unstable, which gives rise to concern since Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Washington is also concerned by the fact that Pakistan closely cooperates with China. If seen from that perspective, the presence of military bases is expedient. There is also the issue of Central Asia. It is all these considerations that prompted the United States to launch its military operation back in 2001”.

Aircraft will prove useful in reconnoitering, gathering information and performing all sorts of secret missions. But the US pursues more important goals, for its military presence in the region is a strategic objective, an expert with the Centre for Modern Afghanistan Studies, Nikita Mendkovich, points out.

“The US sees Afghanistan as a sort of a major military base in the region at least until 2020. The deployed US Air Force in Afghanistan may be seen as a threat to Iran or China in the event relations will become tense”, Mendkovich asserts.

But there is at least one positive thing in the US and NATO troops pulingl out from Afghanistan after 2014. The intensity of airstrikes by the US Air Force and combat planes of other countries, if there remain any, will drop drastically. There will be fewer civilian victims, something President Hamid Karzai is so demonstratively indignant at.

But the situation in Afghanistan, where the regime is artificially propped up, will continue to deteriorate, according to experts. This kind of backdrop will help one and all see clearly the genuine goals that prompted the introduction of western troops into Afghanistan more than a decade ago.

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