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Mar-06-2014 12:53printcomments

Afghan Presidential Candidates Debate Foreign Policy

With only a month left before Presidential elections, U.S. diplomats have signaled a willingness to finalize the BSA with a new administration in Kabul once Karzai steps down. Nearly all of the 11 candidates have expressed support for the deal.

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(KABUL TOLO News) - Three of the 11 presidential candidates participated in the third televised TOLOnews debate on Tuesday night, exchanging views on foreign policy ahead of the April vote.

The candidates - Zalmai Rassoul, Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai, and Abdullah Abdullah - went head-to-head in heated exchanges during the debate, answering questions for nearly two hours.

Moderator Mujahid Kakar first asked the candidates if they accepted the Durand Line, the border separating Afghanistan from Pakistan.

Regarding to the question, Rassoul said the "Durand line is not upon a government or a person, it's the people of Afghanistan that need to decide. The Durand line is an important historical issue, the government cannot solve it. The decision of people will be respected."

Abdullah agreed and said the decision on the Durand must come from the people and Parliament.

"We deal with current problems by looking at current situations and our interests. The stand should be that people of Afghanistan must decide on Durand line," he said.

However, Ahmdazai said the Durand Line cannot be discussed "if the conditions are not right."

"The poorest people of both sides should have the opportunity to cooperate with each other ... In order to have good discussions; we must be assured that our sovereignty is not endangered," he said.

On the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States, the three candidates said they support the agreement that would allow the presence of US troops in Afghanistan post 2014, after the foreign troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has so far refused to sign the BSA, leading the United States to consider a so-called "zero option."

With only a month left before Presidential elections, U.S. diplomats have signaled a willingness to finalize the BSA with a new administration in Kabul once Karzai steps down. Nearly all of the 11 candidates have expressed support for the deal.

"Work with the international community in the past 10 years was how to sustain Afghanistan post 2014," Rassoul said. "The Bilateral Security Agreement is part of the strategic agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan. If the zero-option is implemented, Afghanistan will remain in a condition to accept aid."

Regarding the zero-option, Ahmdazai said: "Dangers have not been eliminated from the region and Afghanistan should be stable by end of this decade."

But, Abdullah said: "I think implementation of zero-option is increasing day by day... Unbalanced and emotional decisions of Karzai will result in the zero-option."

The candidates also accused Pakistan of providing safe havens for the armed opposition.

"Pakistan uses Afghan Taliban as a tool for foreign policy," said Abdullah.

"The people of Pakistan have been friends to the people of Afghanistan and we need to differentiate between the government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan," said Rassoul.

On Pakistan, Ahmadzai said: "Extremism is a threat to both countries.... We need to ensure that Pakistan will not use third party elements for destabilization of Afghanistan. Pakistan doesn't and will not have the right to interfere in Afghanistan."

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