U.S. to Exit Afghanistan in 2014
The U.S. will have all combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. It is clearly spelled out in the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by President Obama and President Karzai yesterday.
It doesn’t say so directly, of course, but hidden within diplomatic jargon it becomes clearer than most political pundits are mindless and dense.
The White House describes it this way:
the Strategic Partnership Agreement itself does not commit the United States to any specific troop levels or levels of funding in the future
– White House Fact Sheet, 5/1/2012
In the agreement itself it says:
Through the Bilateral Commission, Parties should establish mutually determined levels of support and assistance
– Strategic Partnership Agreement, 5/1/2012
Karzai wants combat troops out. Obama wants combat troops out. That will be “mutually agreed”.
The rest will be how much in foreign aid money Afghanistan will get and whether or not the U.S. will be allowed a small military reactionary force. The U.S. will provide ANSF training as part of the aid package. ANSF is the Afghan National Security Force.
The Enduring Strategic Partnership
Officially, the agreement is called “ENDURING STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF AFGHANISTAN“. A photocopy of the signed agreement is posted on the White House web site. Inexplicably, a text version is not yet available.
It is not a very impressive document given that it took two years of bilateral Afghan-U.S. negotiations and bipartisan U.S. Congressional input to create it.
As one would expect, it is weak on details but does have some meaningful specifics:
- Existing agreements remain in force through 2014
- Guarantees U.S. access to “Afghan facilities” only through 2014
- U.S. immediately pledges not to use Afghanistan as a launching point for strikes against other countries (Pakistan)
- Limits the U.S. mission specifically to defeating al-Qaeda
- Seeks annual U.S. funding for ANSF training and Afghan social and economic development until 2024
- Sets up the “Afghanistan-United States Bilateral Commission” for decisions beyond 2014
- Negotiates a “Bilateral Security Agreement”
- Sets up the “U.S.-Afghanistan Working Group” to review security concerns
- Sets the term of the agreement through 2024
Anything that happens beyond 2014, however, has yet to be negotiated.
Specifics will be included in the “Bilateral Security Agreement”. That agreement will be worked out by the “Afghanistan-United States Bilateral Commission” which is under civilian diplomatic direction. Security concerns will be reviewed every 6 months by a “U.S.-Afghanistan Working Group”.
Ironically, under this new agreement the U.S. would not have been allowed to launch the raid that got Osama bin Laden.
It’s an election year. President Obama is playing all sides of all political fences.
The President doesn’t want to offend conservative voters. The agreement does not specifically say all combat troops will be taken out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The Bilateral Security Agreement leaves open the possibility that some U.S. troops MIGHT remain longer. That appears unlikely given the agreement in total.
The President doesn’t want to offend progressive voters who want all troops home today. No specific language is included suggesting any U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014… even if conditions on the ground dictate it.
The terms “troops” and “U.S. military” aren’t even in the document. Instead, the terms “strategic cooperation” and “mutually agreed” replace them.
The President doesn’t want to offend Karzai. Like most Americans, Obama wants to bring the troops home. Thus, literally everything that Karzai wants is in the agreement. Afghans in general don’t want us there anymore, either. They just want our money. They will get plenty of that from the Bilateral Commission.
The President and the majority of Americans want to draw this war to a close. We want to cut the cord.
Al-Qaeda is all but washed up in Afghanistan. Limiting the mission to that alone in the agreement gives the U.S. the ability to claim victory and leave.
It’s probably time. The troops will finally be home by the end of 2014.