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Afghanistan and U.S. ‘Status of Forces Agreement’

The United States’ record of brutal invasion, overthrow and occupation is not new. Countless countries around the world have borne the brunt of the U.S.’s alleged attempts to ‘assist’ them obtain U.S.-style democracy, whether they wanted it or not. Once the leaders of the U.S. determine that they have accomplished whatever is they set out to do, whether it’s obtaining oil reserves, securing lucrative trade routes, or punishing a nation that had the temerity to freely elect a left-wing government, it sets the conditions on which it will leave.

After thirteen years of murderous destruction in Afghanistan, during which time the Taliban, which opposed the construction of a major pipeline through its country, was overthrown, the U.S. is now ready to turn that beleaguered nation over to its own people, sort of. A tentative ‘Status of Forces Agreement’ has been struck, which would, of course, allow for a significant U.S. military presence, between 5,000 and 10,000 soldiers, to remain indefinitely, but a monkey wrench now seems to have been thrown into the works. Afghanistan is seeking two additional provisions, one that prevents the U.S. from its arbitrary raids on Afghan homes, and the second which demands the release of all Afghan prisoners in the U.S.’s Cuban-based torture center, Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. needless to say, is not happy about either of these requirements.

For nations with less than 10,000 U.S. soldiers stationed there, the ‘host’ nation has primary jurisdiction over those soldiers, for most, but not all, crimes. Since the current proposal is that Afghanistan would have fewer than 10,000, the norm would seem to indicate that Afghanistan would have jurisdiction. The U.S., for reasons known only to the higher echelons within the government, wants Afghanistan to be the exception to this rule. Perhaps the reason is to set a precedent, so the U.S. can maintain control after it invades other countries.

Afghanistan’s leaders are certainly demonstrating an uncharacteristic boldness; perhaps they observed the negotiations made in 2008 with Iraq prior to the U.S.’s departure from that nation. Ultimately, no such agreement was signed. The U.S. had asked for the following:

*The use of fifty-eight, long-term military bases in Iraq;

*Ability to arrest and detain prisoners independent of the judicial system of Iraq;

*Immunity from crimes committed by both U.S. soldiers and contractors, and

*Freedom to conduct military operations without any approval from the government of Iraq.

Conditions in Iraq certainly enabled its Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to hold fast against U.S. demands. American presence in Iraq was extremely unpopular, and provisional elections were scheduled for the following year. Additionally, it was clear to Mr. al-Maliki, and most of Iraq, that Mr. Bush’s successor in the 2008 U.S. presidential election would not be the hawkish Republican Senator John McCain, but the more ostensibly dove-like Democratic Senator Barack Obama. With Mr. al-Maliki holding firm, the U.S. made major concessions, and agreed to remove all military personnel from Iraq by December 31, 2011.

The conditions requested by the U.S., and granted throughout most of the world, have enabled the U.S. to order much of the world to its liking. With over one thousand bases, there are few areas of the planet that the U.S. doesn’t control. And with soldiers and contractors granted immunity from crimes, it isn’t unusual for major crimes to be committed, with no consequences for the perpetrator. Two fairly recent examples are illustrative.

In 2009, a U.S. soldier and a military contractor were accused of raping a 12-year-old girl at a military base in Columbia. This alleged crime cannot be investigated by the Columbian authorities, because the accused have immunity. The girl’s mother was prevented from speaking during a debate on the future of military bases in Columbia. Such debate was important, due to U.S. desires for additional bases, which were subsequently satisfied.

On October 30, 2009, the U.S. and Columbia signed an agreement that authorizes the U.S. to occupy seven military bases in Columbia, but also gives the U.S. the right to occupy any installation in that country. This agreement, with its provisions of immunity, basically turns Columbia into a U.S. military base. The alleged rape of an innocent young girl must not stand in the way of U.S. geopolitical interests.

In November of 2012, word began to leak out of the Afghanistan village of Nerkh that several locals had disappeared. The U.S. forces stationed there were informed, but it was months later, after about a dozen more disappearances, that the Afghanistan government forced the U.S. unit there to leave. At this point, with the U.S. media covering the disappearances, an investigation of sorts was held. The evidence discovered includes the following:

*The discovery of ten bodies buried in several locations near the base;

*Many of the men who disappeared had been arrested by Americans, in front of multiple witnesses;

*None of these witnesses, or family members, were interviewed by the U.S. military personnel responsible for the investigation, and

*A discovery of a video of a bound, blindfolded Afghanistan man being beaten during an interrogation by other Afghans, with U.S. soldiers present.

Despite this evidence of wrongdoing by U.S. forces, no one was held accountable.

“The US military seldom publicizes the results of investigations into specific abuses, including torture, deaths in detention and indiscriminate or disproportionate use of force during ground operations. In the majority of cases, there is little indication that anyone has been held accountable for these abuses.”i

These are just two of countless examples of U.S. soldiers running rampant over the rights of the citizens whose nations they occupy. Culturally, the ‘host’ nation also suffers, as more and more soldiers and U.S. contractors populate the country. The U.S. military is ever-present, with bases where farms, homes or business would far better serve the local citizens.

It does not appear that Afghanistan will hold firm, as Iraq did in 2008, against U.S demands. It is difficult to do so against the puppet-master who is pulling the strings. This will be a tragedy for the Afghanistan people, and the world, as the U.S. adds yet another colony to its global collection.

ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776 – 2006.

NOTES

[1]  http://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-nerkh-killings-the-problem-with-immunity-for-us-soldiers

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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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