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Balkh Governor critical of US/Afghan strategic agreement?

April 30, 2012

By Tim Foxley

This is perhaps one to watch.  Iran’s Press TV has reported comments made by Balkh province’s governor, Noor Mohammad Atta, in which he criticises the idea of US military bases inside Afghanistan.

Mohammad Atta: “Signing strategic agreements between Afghanistan and the United States, should it lead to military bases on the Afghan soil, is by no means acceptable to the Afghan nation”

As yet, there doesn’t appear to have been much negative Afghan comment, either from the population or from senior political opposition figures, to the announcement of the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the US and Afghanistan.  This may be because the more controversial bits of any long-term US/Afghan deal – for example US bases in Afghanistan – have yet to be fully addressed.  Atta, a significant political figure and a former member of the Northern Alliance, is a strong influence in Mazar-e Sharif and Northern Afghanistan.  Although beholden to Karzai for his prestige governorship, during the last presidential elections, in 2009, there was a point where he looked like he might run against Karzai.

This certainly doesn’t have the feel of a full-blown tirade against the West and it is too early to say whether this might develop into more anti-US statements from Atta and the Northern Alliance or become a wider demonstration from elements of the population.   I’m guessing not, but presenting yourself as protecting Afghan sovereignty is in easy win at present – Karzai has spent the last year (and more?) poking the West in this fashion.  It is not impossible that Atta is starting to build up his profile, perhaps as part of a presidential campaign bid– particularly given Karzai has been dropping hints of calling the election early – ie in 2013.

In addition, I notice that Atta, amongst other former Northern Alliance members, has also been commenting favourably on the potential for reaching a political deal with Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin.  They may judge that this could undermine the Taliban’s bargaining position.  During the 1990s, alliances between HIG and the Northern Alliance were perhaps best characterised as short-term, shaky and unreliable…

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