Political leaders in Afghanistan are concerned that President Obama's decision to start withdrawing US forces could lead to a repeat of the US withdrawal in 1989, when Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence was allowed to gain major influence. "We don't want to go back 20 years when [ISI was] making the decisions about Afghanistan," one mayor tells the Wall Street Journal. Adding to the concern is the fact that billions of dollars in aid cuts will likely accompany the withdrawal, Reuters reports. For his part, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appeared supportive of Obama's speech.
The withdrawal announcement proves that "a very important process of the liberty of Afghanistan, governance of Afghanistan, and the protection of Afghanistan by Afghans has begun," Karzai said in a statement. But he must now make sure his government is stable enough to fight off both Pakistani interference and the Taliban. Though the Taliban dismissed the announcement as simply a "symbolic step," some leaders believe the move could actually facilitate peace talks including the Taliban. Others, however, worry the Taliban will see any US withdrawal as "a victory." (Read more Afghanistan stories.)