The concept of military withdrawal -- especially from Afghanistan -- has long been a flimsy one. Let alone the presence of contractors that are not counted among official troop numbers, withdrawal from Afghanistan has never meant that the country would be totally without a U.S. military presence. On Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that the U.S. hoped to maintain nine military bases across Afghanistan -- a large deployment that stands at odds with claims of a more robust security handover from U.S. to Afghan forces.
"We can agree to give them the bases – them staying on after 2014 is for the good of Afghanistan," Karzai said in a speech at Kabul University. "The condition is that they bring peace and security and take action quickly … on the basic strengthening of Afghanistan, helping the economy of Afghanistan."
Karzai was reportedly conciliatory in his speech, having in recent months vociferously decried U.S. presence in his country. Via the Guardian:
The places in which the U.S. wants to keep troops include the capital, Kabul, the sprawling Bagram airbase, which has been the heart of operations in the east, the restive southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, and Shindand in the west, where Nato is training the Afghan airforce, Karzai said.
The other bases are in the northern hub of Mazar-i-Sharif, the western city of Herat, near the Iranian border, and eastern Gardez and Jalalabad, which is a key gateway to Pakistan and a base for drones.