Afghanistan: Foreign Combat Troops Begin Withdrawal

Primary NATO contributors to the ISAF task force that has occupied Afghanistan for almost 13 years have begun to withdraw their troops as of this month. Secretary of State John Kerry praised new President Ashraf Ghani for making moves to combat money laundering and corruption, with UK Prime Minister David Cameron also joining in. The peak of US involvement saw roughly 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan in 2011.

The Obama Administration, however, is also planning on keeping hundreds more troops than the promised token force of 9,800 that he had previously announced for 2015, another sign that the idea of total withdrawal is still as of yet unattractive to US policymakers. The total NATO force will be roughly 12,000 with US officials arguing for a “bridging solution” resulting from long delays in finalizing security agreements for foreign troops to remain after 2014. The main issue is the sudden withdrawal of most combat support troops – the delay in US policy resulted in the long debate with former Afghan President Karzai, who refused to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement until a successor was announced.

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News Briefs:

  • The Mongolian coal reserve of Tavan Tolgoi saw another high profile bidder come in yesterday. China Shenhua Energy will bid on the project, which is looking to be the largest coal deposit in the world, right next to the country with the largest energy demand in the world. Shenhua provided no details about ownership structures, according to a government resolution earlier, but the winning team will have a 51% ownership stake by a Mongolian firm with five or more years of domestic mining experience.
  • Pakistan signed an agreement with Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan to import 1,000 MW of electricity under the CASA-1000 project at 9.35 cents per Megawatt from hydroelectric dams in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The project is scheduled for completion under the auspices of the World Bank, which is funding the project. Tajikistan’s share in the export of energy will be 70 percent, Kyrgyzstan will export 30 percent, Afghanistan will consume 300 megawatts, with Pakistan receiving 1,000 megawatts of electricity.
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