WASHINGTON -- President Hamid Karzai's visit to Washington this weekwill center on talks to help shape the U.S. commitment to his countryafter the bulk of American combat forces leave in two years, accordingto analysts.
Afghans worry about U.S. abandonment, fearing arepeat of history when the United States supported the mujahedin intheir fight against the Soviets, then walked away after the Sovietwithdrawal in 1989.
Repeating that history is "a perpetual worryof the Afghans," said David Barno, a retired Army three-star general atthe Center for a New American Security.
The Soviet-backed Afghangovernment collapsed within a few years, and Afghanistan plunged into abloody civil war in the 1990s that led to the Taliban's takeover in1996.
Karzai has expressed a desire for additional U.S. help withfinances and security beyond the date when most international combattroops are scheduled to depart, at the end of 2014. But the Obamaadministration is likely to respond to Karzai's wish list with a rosterof its own concerns.
Karzai will need to convince Washington ofhis commitment to good government and the rule of law, said MarkJacobson, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund and former deputy NATOcivilian representative in Afghanistan.
The talks will not centeronly on "a list of demands and wishes," said Said Jawad, a formerAfghanistan ambassador to the United States.
Washingtonofficials may also press Karzai on his commitment to hold presidentialelections in 2014. Karzai said he will abide by the nation'sconstitution and not run again. His 2009 election was plagued byallegations of fraud and irregularities.
Karzai, who arrivedTuesday and will meet with Obama on Friday, wants a long-term U.S.presence, Jawad said. The Obama administration has said the meetingsthis week are not designed to reach a final agreement on post-2014 trooplevels but to open discussions about it.
Afghanistan's most pressing need appears to be support for its fledgling armed forces, say military analysts.
Afghansecurity forces, which include soldiers and police, are on track tonumber more than 350,000 in 2013. Many units are capable, but they lackair support, intelligence capabilities and technology to counterroadside bombs.
"I don't see how they get by without substantialAmerican help in those transition years (after 2014)," said MichaelO'Hanlon, an analyst at Brookings Institution.
There are about 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of nearly 100,000.
TheWhite House appears to be favoring leaving a residual force of fewerthan 10,000 U.S. troops, according to the Associated Press, citingunnamed officials. Though the White House said it would not rule out thepossibility of leaving no residual force behind, O'Hanlon said that islikely a negotiating tactic to pressure the Afghans to reach anagreement to provide legal protections for troops after 2014.
ThePentagon has said a residual force should be capable of conductingcounterterrorism missions and providing support and training to Afghan'ssecurity forces.