US President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Kabul. He had gone there to herald a new era in US-Afghan relations. He said that war was to end and that a new chapter was to begin. This was not mere rhetoric. He was in Kabul to sign a strategic partnership agreement with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. The terms of the relationship between the two countries after the US pullout in 2014 had already been spelt out. Obama can claim that he has set the ball rolling to wind up a costly and unpopular war in his election year without compromising ties with Kabul. He tried to portray the US pullout as an unalloyed achievement. The fact remains that the Karzai government may not be able to hold on against the extremist Taliban. It may be noted that Obama’s visit to Kabul more or less coincided with the killing of Osama bin Laden raking up memories of a traumatic shock to the US in 2003. The US President said that his country had achieved the goal of decimating Al-Qaida.
The US help to Afghanistan will continue for a decade to develop Afghan economic and public institutions. No concrete financial commitments were however made. President Karzai also welcomed the partnership agreement which had been finalised last month. But nothing is for sure in the global political scenario. It is good that the partnership is now finally sealed. It may not be in the interest of Pakistan which planned on cashing in on the strife in Afghanistan. But peace and reconstruction in that country will certainly be in the interest of India which recently cut an economic deal with Afghanistan.