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article imageOp-Ed: Partial deal reached with Afghanistan on US troops after 2014

By Ken Hanly     Oct 12, 2013 in Politics
Kabul - In a surprise visit to Afghanistan, John Kerry arrived in Kabul the capital on Friday for talks designed to close a deal on the future of US forces in Afghanistan after 2014.
UPDATE: BBC now reports that there is a partial deal with respect to the bilateral security agreement to determine the status of US forces and their role after US troops are withdrawn in 2014. The exact terms and number of troops to remain have not been determined. The issue of immunity for US troops has not been resolved which is why the agreement is said to be partial.A more exact term would be conditional.
David Loyn of the BBC said that Karzai failed to obtain security guarantees to protect Afghanist from external attack. A guarantee of this sort could lead to a war with Pakistan the US fears. Karzai appears to have received assurances that the US would not carry out attacks in Afghanistan without first consulting with Afghan authorities. However, exact terms have yet to be released.
Karzai said that the issue of immunity would be considered by a loya jirga as he had promised back in January and also the Afghan parliament. Kerry said that if no deal is reached on this issue there would be no agreement to allow US troops to remain aft er the NATO mission ends in 2014.. This could turn out not to be a partial deal but no deal at all. (end of update)
Washington says it wants a deal finished by the end of October although recently Karzai said that a final deal could be finished after a new president was elected in April of next year. In a way this makes sense since the new president not Karzai will be in power when any new arrangement comes into force in 2014.
There is already a long-term strategic partnership agreement between the US and Afghanistan that sets out the relationship between the two countries from 2014 to 2024. Although signed in May of last year, it came into force in July of 2012: "Under the strategic partnership agreement signed by the U.S. and Afghanistan in May 2012 both countries are obliged to negotiate a bilateral security agreement within one year. These negotiations were scheduled to begin on November 15, 2012."
All day negotiations on Saturday went on into Saturday evening and so Kerry will be staying until Sunday to see if further progress can be made:"We are going to try to see if we can make a little more progress, which is what we have been doing all day long. If this thing can come together, this will put the Taliban (insurgents) on their heels". The Afghan government had said previously that the sticking points over the Bilateral Security Agreement were a demand by the US of a right to conduct their own unilateral actions against militants and exactly what pledges the US would make to protect Afghanistan. Reports seem not to notice that there is another key issue which neither side is even mentioning that of immunity of US troops from Afghan law. This issue had not been settled according to Karzai who said he would leave the decision to a loya jirga or meeting of elders.
This very issue was responsible for the failure of the Obama administration to keep any troops in Iraq. A meeting of elders is hardly likely to look kindly on the relinquishing of sovereignty that immunity for US troops involves. Karzai seems to have relapsed into being an obedient puppet as has happened often before. If he signs an agreement without first seeking approval of a loya jirga on the immunity and other issues his government will show itself as continuing to be completely dependent upon the US and other western backers. Karzai also said that he had suspended talks after he became enraged at the Taliban flying their flag at their Doha office: Karzai officially suspended BSA talks in June in a furious reaction to the Afghan Taliban opening a liaison office in Qatar that was presented as an embassy for a government in waiting. He has said he refuses to be rushed into signing the deal, and would first seek approval from a traditional grand assembly of tribal leaders to be convened in about a month's time."
Afghan officials dismiss the idea that the US might enact the "zero option" of a complete pullout. However, the US may not need "enact" the zero option. If the Afghan government decides against immunity, the US may be forced to accept the zero option. Reports are silent not only about the immunity issue but about the recent seizure of Latif Mehsud, the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) from a convoy of the National Directorate of Security which was conveying him to their headquarters for consultation on peace talks. We are hearing nothing from Karzai on this. Instead he is going ahead with talks and not even mentioning a thing about a loya jirga, immunity, or the seizure of a rebel leader by the US under the protection of its own security forces. He stays silent as the US announces:
"As part of the armed conflict against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces... Mehsud was captured and is being lawfully held by US military forces in Afghanistan," said Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Elissa Smith.
Even by puppet standards Karzai is pitiful. However, Karzai's only consistency consists in being inconsistent so he could very well suddenly denounce the whole negotiating process as US pressure causes a temper tantrum.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about John kerry, Afghanistan US relations, Hamid karzai
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