Both Washington and Kabul realise that Karzai’s regime should not be left without any military support because it will not survive for a long time in that case.
During their meeting, Obama and Karzai will touch upon peace talks with the Taliban. Its leaders show no interest in talks with Karzai. They are very well aware that any talks should be carried out with the real boss, the US.
Washington also realises that talks with the Taliban will have to start sooner or later. Speaking frankly, the US would like to do it through Karzai because this would add to his legitimacy and strengthen his position.
Russian experts say that the talk about complete withdrawal of US troops, the so-called zero option, is all bluff. If Americans just want to reduce their military presence in Afghanistan instead of withdrawing all the troops they will have to come to an agreement with the Taliban. Director of the Russian Centre for Contemporary Afghan Studies Omar Nessar comments:
“Karzai’s regime completely depends on outside forces both in the military and the economic respect. For this reason, complete withdrawal of troops could result in the collapse of Karzai’s regime and the loss of all achievements over the previous 12 years. I do not believe that the troops will be withdrawn completely. It isn’t as if Americans did not care a bit about what has been done. So some military regiments will certainly remain.”
Commander of the US and multinational troops in Afghanistan General John Allen is in favour of leaving 10,000-15,000 soldiers and instructors with Karzai. Obama’s Administration intends to leave 3,000-9,000. The US president has to curtail the budget expenditure and the contingent in Afghanistan requires billions of dollars. At present about 68,000 US soldiers still remain in Afghanistan. Washington is most likely to leave about 8,000 soldiers in the country.
Experts believe that after the withdrawal of the US troops Russia will have to raise its political and diplomatic activity in the region manifold. Director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Planning and Forecast Alexander Gusev is speaking:
“Now Russia should remember that it is not Americans who determine the situation in Afghanistan. Russia should make a great effort to preserve peace in Afghanistan and to prevent the appearance of new hotbeds of a civil war. Russia should prevent the Taliban from influencing the processes in Central Asia and create ‘an airbag’ within the Collective Security Treaty Organisation to guarantee security in that hazardous region.”
US experts say that in the end the size of the remaining US contingent will depend on the US judgement of Karzai’s regime’s vital capacity. At least, this will be so in the near future. The results of the talks with the Taliban will also matter. Tentative hints about the talks are being made already. In particular, Obama is urging Karzai to support the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar. This would shift the centre of contacts with the Taliban from Pakistan, with which Karzai has rather tense relations, to Qatar.