By Farid Behbud
KABUL, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Afghan National Security Advisor Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta has said that he is confident his country would sign the controversial Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States. "Principally we agreed with this BSA, we agreed to have a limited number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan for training, equipping Afghan forces, and I am confident that we will reach it," Spanta told Xinhua in a recent exclusive interview.
In November, the traditional Loya Jirga or grand assembly attended by 2,500 tribal elders and notables from across the country endorsed the BSA and called on President Hamid Karzai to sign it before the end of 2013.
However, the outgoing Afghan president put some conditions for signing the BSA, saying that he would sign the pact only if the United States agrees to support meaningful peace talks with the Taliban, stops searching civilian houses and hands over Taliban prisoners to Afghan side.
Washington had urged Karzai to sign the BSA before the end of 2013, warning that failure to sign the pact would mean that U.S. forces completely leaves the country and Afghanistan risks renewing civil war. "Through BSA, Afghanistan and United States of America, the both, we tried to give a legal framework, a general framework for security cooperation between two countries. And we tried to reach two things, the Afghans, from one hand, a possibility for continuation of training and equipping and financing the Afghan Security Forces but from the other hand, a sovereign country to give an end on the way, all the international forces are today in Afghanistan, as you know, they came per decision of security council of the United Nations, not in agreement with us, a sovereign country, we will change that," Spanta, the former foreign minister, said.
Spanta said through the BSA Afghans will also get more respect for the country's sovereignty.
On April 5, more than 7 million eligible Afghans cast their vote to select the country's new president for the next five years. The leading candidates out of eight contenders did not hide their support for signing the BSA. They said they would sign the security and defense pact with United States if they win the race. The result of the polls are expected in mid May.
When asked about efforts to launch peace talks with the Taliban insurgents, Spanta said that the government has had contacts with some influential Taliban but not with the Taliban leadership. "We are suffering more than 35 years of the war and the destruction. We have to give an end to this violence in Afghanistan. The only way that we can reach peace and stability is to find any kind of agreement with all fractions in Afghanistan," he said.
Karzai and other leaders have repeatedly offered peace talks with the Taliban. However, the insurgent group has categorically rejected the offer, saying there will be no talks until foreign troops leave the country.
About the recent arrest of a veteran Taliban leader Agha Jan Mutasim in United Arab Emirates, Spanta said"I regret that he was arrested. He opened his office in United Arab Emirates. And (had) an agreement with the authorities of United Arabic Emirates. He announced official peace negotiation with Afghanistan. He supported the election process in Afghanistan."
Mutasim, former Taliban minister, had recently tried to facilitate negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban and held talks with the Afghan peace council members in Dubai. After being held for days in Dubai, Mutasim returned to Afghanistan on April 19. "Any interruption in this process, arresting this person, was directly an attack against peace process in Afghanistan. I am so sorry about that," he said.
Asked about his evaluation of the security situation as the NATO force is withdrawing from Afghanistan, Spanta replied " Afghanistan was existing before the international forces came up, came to Afghanistan and it will exist when they leave. This is our country and we have the responsibility to look for security and stability. We are very thankful for cooperation of the international community with us during the last 13 years. I think, this is the time that they have to go back home safe and secure so we can defend and build our country in a peaceful cooperation with the world with us."
When asked whether the NATO withdrawal will affect the country, the Afghan security advisor said "No, no, we are very happy to fulfill this, this transition process, and I think this is enough and we are very grateful for support and cooperation of the international community. But as I mentioned, this is our job to defend our country." "I am 100 percent confident. we know that now all military and security operations are implemented by Afghan security forces. International forces today play an more advisory role. I am sure that from 2015 we will not have more difficulties as we have today. I hope, the peace process will be successful, if not, it is our job to defend our country," Spanta added.