Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

December 22, 2013

Jack Segal: Getting out of Afghanistan

NATO foreign ministers in Brussels recently pushed hard to get Afghan President Karzai to sign a security agreement, one that would grant NATO troops immunity from Afghan prosecution and allow NATO to maintain bases in the country after 2014.

The NATO allies’ frustration stems from Karzai’s stalling tactics over the past year, his new demands that NATO troops not search the homes of Afghan citizens, and that the U.S. immediately release Afghan detainees in Guantanamo to Kabul’s control. NATO currently intends to keep about 10,000 US/NATO troops in Afghanistan to train Afghan forces, to conduct intelligence operations and to continue our attacks against “militants” along the Pakistan border. That sounds pretty much like what we’ve been doing since 9/11, but the plan now seems to be for this smaller force to accomplish what 150,000 troops could not do in 12 years. I doubt it.

Regrettably, after all this time, few of the insurgent strongholds have been weakened. The Taliban and their rivals, “Northern Alliance” factions, anti—foreign power brokers and anti—rule—of—law drug traffickers still control much of the countryside. True, in a few large cities, under a deluge of taxpayers’ money, a tiny fraction of Afghans are better off. But for most, far from where visiting VIPs venture, life has not changed. Human/women’s rights initiatives pressed by foreigners are only grudgingly tolerated. Last month, a bill reinstating medieval punishment (stoning) for adultery was included in the penal code working its way through Afghanistan’s Parliament. Given the lack of real progress in Afghanistan, why are we insisting on remaining after 2014?

In a word: bases. In the east, we want bases for our drones and our Special Forces attacks. In the west, we want bases to slip our agents and surveillance drones into Iran. But no less an authority than former National Security Adviser Tom Donelin admitted on CNN’s “GPS” show (Dec. 8) that if Afghanistan refuses to sign the security agreement, we could still protect our interests without leaving troops there.

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