Developments in Afghanistan and its relations with the United States suggest that the objectives Washington is pursuing may well produce a result that Americans don’t want.
That likely outcome is an American military and financial presence in Afghanistan until 2024, 23 years from the beginning of U.S. involvement after 9/11 and 10 years beyond the scheduled withdrawal date, the end of next year. The U.S. troop level being discussed for that final decade is a substantial 15,000.
After considerable negotiation between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Secretary of State John Kerry, Mr. Karzai has presented an agreement to Afghanistan’s informal body of senior tribal and other officials, the loya jirga, that he is recommending for acceptance. The part of it that will be attractive to the Afghan body is the fact that U.S. financial aid will continue at least until 2024.
The part Afghans will like less is the fact that U.S. combat troops will continue to play a role in hunting al-Qaida and Taliban elements in the country and that U.S. rather than Afghan authorities will have jurisdiction over American troops that commit crimes in Afghanistan, two major U.S. objectives in negotiating the agreement.
It is generally expected that the 2,500-member Afghan body will sign on, not wishing to see U.S. aid cease. The agreement then has to go to the Afghan parliament, which is also likely to approve it. Mr. Karzai is talking about not signing the accord himself, which would leave the president who wins the spring election to take the rap for authorizing the Americans to stay another decade.
It is a sad commentary on the current state of American government that the Afghan side gets to examine and pass or reject the agreement at the loya jirga, parliamentary and presidential levels, while President Barack Obama’s administration is proceeding to extend the long war and costly financing of Afghanistan by 10 years without any sense of concurrence by America’s legislature or its people.
The U.S. public, at least, is sick of this war after 12 years.