Monday, January 14, 2013

Short Afghan-a-thon

Just a couple of thoughts on recent news about Afghanistan:
  • First, Hamid Karzai returned to Afghanistan after assuring the Americans that he would work to get immunity for American troops present in Afghanistan after 2014, and then when arriving in Afghanistan said it would be up to the elders.  This is actually not as contradictory as Karzai often can be.  He didn't say that he would decide when he was in the US, unless I missed something.  So, he basically made the same kind of commitment that an American President might make when negotiating something--well, you know, Congress might have to act as well ...  So, not such a big deal.
  • Second, ah, but now we are surprising our European allies with the "zero option" that the US might have no troops in Afghanistan after 2014.  Well, this should be of surprise only to those who didn't notice what happend in Iraq in 2011.  The US left entirely when it could not get a Status of Forces Agreement [SOFA] to its liking--mostly about immunity of American soldiers.  Well, guess what, the US might not stick around in Afghanistan if Karzai cannot commit his successors (since he is term limited, well, sort of) to provide immunity to American soldiers.  
    • Second, part B: The US often surprises its allies by changing its mind.  They are used to it.
    • Second, part C: One could argue that the zero option is just a ploy to get Karzai to compromise. If so, two things can happen.  The bluff works or it does not.    Interesting times.
Anyhow, it is increasingly likely that the US stance in Afghanistan after 2014 will be much smaller than folks anticipated a year or two ago.  Given the green on blue stuff and the budget crisis back home, this really should not be much of a surprise.

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