FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Understanding Karzai’s Role in Determining Afghanistan’s Future

by SAM KIERSTEAD

The controversy surrounding the bilateral Security Defense Cooperation Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan is more complex than a stubborn Afghan president. President Karzai is playing the weighing game. On one side of the scale rests the centerpiece of the U.S. War on Terror, something the United States is reluctant to compromise. On the other, is the possibility for an Afghan peace process that includes the Taliban. Poor President Karzai, at the end of an exhausting term, is faced with the most important decision of his Presidency, where a misstep in either direction could mean indefinite war or Taliban takeover.

Afghanistan has significant sovereign incentives to sign the security pact. Foremost among the benefits is that money would keep flowing to development projects and security entities. Moreover, if the Karzai government and its successor are committed to fighting Taliban insurgency, neither current nor prospective regime can hope to succeed without support from the United States. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are undersupplied, undertrained, and undermanned—a bad combination for taking on insurgency alone.

But wait—there are more carrots for the Afghans. Under Article 8 of the agreement, the U.S. would consent to sign over the title and deed of any permanent U.S. facility—or in docuspeak ‘non-relocatable structure’—to the Afghan government upon completion of its mission in Afghanistan. This would be an infrastructural and strategic boon for the Afghan military.

Under intense pressure from the United States, Karzai risks abandonment in delaying signature of the agreement. The Obama administration has not minced words. National Security Advisor Susan Rice issued a statement after a meeting with Karzai in late November, indicating that if an agreement were not signed ‘promptly’ the U.S. would begin planning for the so-called zero option. Afghanistan’s occupational compatriot Iraq has felt the painful repercussions of the zero option, currently sporting its highest levels of casualties and insurgent activity since 2008. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari recently paid a visit to President Karzai, ostensibly to offer advice on how to negotiate with the United States. A repeat of the Iraqi zero-option disaster is a very real possibility in Afghanistan. In the Afghan case it is certainly not unreasonable to argue that the Taliban would reclaim vast swathes of territory, including Kabul, upon the departure of foreign forces. The danger here ought not be understated.

Despite the potent risks of full withdrawal, the unyielding media refrain ‘why is Karzai so stubborn,’ misses important reasons for the Afghan President’s hesitance to sign the agreement in haste. There are two big reasons and one little reason. Starting with the little one. The agreement would allow any entity contracted by the U.S. Armed Services or Department of Defense to operate in Afghanistan tax-free and with limited licensing (Art. 16 Sec. 4 and Art. 11 Sec. 2). Furthermore, Afghan utilities would be lawfully obliged to offer these contractors—along with foreign military personnel—the same low rates that the domestic ANDSF receives (Art. 12 Sec. 1). As has been shown time and again—in great disrespect to the neoliberal paradigm—giving tax breaks to foreign corporations is bad economic development; an unattractive route for an already debilitated Afghan economy.

Another factor weighing heavily on Karzai’s mind is popular opinion. Yes Afghanistan has elections, and yes public opinion matters. Irresponsible and in many cases criminal acts have been carried out by U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Oversight of these issues by DoD, the State Department, and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been hit or miss at best. Some offenders have faced justice back in the U.S. while others have not, just ask Nation reporter Jeremy Scahill. This has served to deeply alienate large swaths of the Afghan populace, a body Karzai has rightly chosen to heed.

As a result, President Karzai is insisting on the inclusion of a clause categorically forbidding entry of U.S. military forces into Afghan private residencies. Article 7 (sec. 3) of the draft agreement says that the U.S. “shall not target Afghan civilians, including in their homes,” a standard that regrettably must be reiterated. Karzai demands more, and rightly so. There can be little hope for success against insurgency if the populace is equally scared of foreign forces and the Taliban. The current strategy of executing or disappearing innocent Afghan civilians indicates how seriously the military and political establishment in the United States takes the winning ‘Hearts and Minds’ approach. Gung-ho JSOC killers tend to see themselves as ‘terrorist hunters’ rather than peace corp volunteers.

Finally—the most important of Karzai’s internal debates, that has received the scantest media coverage, is the possibility of peace. If he allows foreign forces to stay, the prospect of an accord with the Taliban evaporates. Attaching his signature to the bilateral agreement sets in stone indefinite conflict. As long as ‘infidels’—and by this the Taliban mean occupying forces of current or historical colonial regimes—remain in Afghanistan, moderate members of the Taliban will be marginalized and the hardliners will stay in business. More Afghan soldiers will die, more U.S. soldiers will die, more insurgents will die, and more Afghan civilians will bloat an ever-increasing body of tragedy.

This is the choice Karzai confronts: weighing the possibility of Taliban takeover against a hope for reconciliation. It isn’t simple, it isn’t sure, and it certainly isn’t easy. The fate of a nation, rarely party to peace, rests in his hands. Maybe we all should give the guy a break.

Sam Kierstead is a student in the School of International Studies at American University.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail