YAROSLAV TROFIMOV And
Updated Nov. 20, 2013 7:36 p.m. ET
After two days of negotiation, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Wednesday that a deal has been reached with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai which created a framework for US forces to remain in Afghanistan after the current agreement expires at the end of 2014. It is also expected that the deal will serve as a model for a similar deal with NATO, several of whose members intend to keep their forces in Afghanistan after the 2014 deadline. The agreement is subject to the approval of the Loya Jirga, a traditional assembly of 3000 prominent Afghans. The Loya Jirga is not required by law, but Karzai insisted on convening it in order to further discuss the agreement. The group will meet beginning on November 21 in Kabul. Their approval is not guaranteed, and the group can revise or reject any clause of the agreement. A rejection by the Loya Jirga would make it unlikely that the Afghan government would sign it, but considering the composition of the group it’s unlikely they will come to a decision contrary to Karzai’s wishes. It’s been reported in the last few days that the agreement required a letter of apology from President Obama to the Afghan people but Secretary Kerry ruled out any kind of “apology.” Something that has been part of the negotiation and remains unresolved is a letter, demanded by Karzai, from President Obama acknowledging US “mistakes” in the 12 year war. The White House is still considering how best to provide “appropriate assurances” to the Afghans. Also at issue, is whether or not US forces will be banned from entering Afghan homes, even if necessary to protect lives. The US maintains that a “blanket ban” would hamper counterterrorism efforts. Another key US demand which is included in the agreement is that US military forces will be under the sold jurisdiction of the US government. US contractors and their employees, however, will be under jurisdiction of Afghani law for any crimes committed. The size of the force is still undetermined, but their role would be training, advisory, and counterterrorism. US and Allied aid to Afghanistan is a significant source of funding for Afghan army and police, and the agreement is critical to the continuation of that aid. When a similar deal with Iraq failed, the US withdrew all forces and violence in that country increased. A guarantee that Karzai sought but did not receive is any US promise to defend Afghanistan against external attack. The agreement does allow for the two nations to consult “on an urgent basis” to determine and implement an appropriate response. An annex to the draft document defines nine facilities and bases which will be available to US forces after 2014.
Karzai has his critics in Afghanistan, and they say that he is manufacturing crisis and dragging out talks with the US in order to stay relevant. Karzai is supposed to step down from the Presidency after elections are held in April.
The Taliban opposes the deal, and will continue their jihad as long as foreign soldiers remain on Afghan soil. They have pledged to target the Loya Jirga as traitors and have taken responsibility for a suicide bombing on Saturday that killed 13.
A pdf of the draft can be accessed here.
The upcoming Afghanistan Presidential Election was only mentioned in passing in this article. But, I can’t help but wonder how the outcome of that election will affect this agreement. Theoretically, the agreement will remain in force until the end of 2024, but Paragraph 4 of Article 26 of the agreement does allow for its termination. The US can’t interfere in the Afghani elections, so the most we can do (in regard to this agreement, anyway) is hope that whoever is elected will leave it in place. Personally…I’d just as soon we got out of there. I have sympathy for the people, but I think that sometimes people (or nations) need to be able to sink or swim on their own, and it’ll be difficult for them to realize their full potential if they’re forever leaning on the US for security. Ideally, by the end of the term of this contract, our troops will no longer be needed, and will be warmly thanked and bid good bye.