A Closer Look at the U.S.-Afghan Partnership Agreement (FrontPageMagazine.com) 05/03/12)
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A year after a fearless, anonymous team of Navy SEALs sent Osama bin
Laden to wherever mass-murderers go when they die, the commander-in-
chief continued his yearlong victory lap with a stop in Afghanistan
to sign a framework agreement with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. While
the Left gushes over President Obama’s swaggering anniversary
speeches and the Right questions the president’s tone and tactics,
it’s the substance of the U.S.-Afghanistan agreement—or lack thereof—
that worries me.
I. The document states that “cooperation between Afghanistan and the
United States is based on mutual respect and shared interests.”
Try telling that to the families of U.S., British and French troops
who have been killed by Afghan troops—there have been some 45 attacks
by uniformed Afghan troops on U.S. and other NATO forces, killing 70
allied troops—or to the Western forces still fighting for
Afghanistan, who have to look over their shoulders as they fight.
II. The document states that the U.S. and Afghanistan “reaffirm”
their commitment to “defeating al Qaeda and its affiliates.”
There are two problems with this part of the agreement, and they are
significant. First, the commitment of the Afghan government and
military is shaky at best. (See Point I.) Fresh from a tour of
Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Daniel Davis describes Afghan troops as largely
unwilling to engage the Taliban. According to a classified report
leaked to The New York Times, one Afghan colonel describes his own
troops as “thieves, liars and drug addicts.” An American quoted in
the report says Afghan troops are “pretty much gutless in combat; we
do most of the fighting.”
Second, just how committed are Kabul and Washington to defeating “al
Qaeda and its affiliates” if the two have directed their diplomats to
talk to al Qaeda’s closest, oldest affiliate? That would be the
Taliban. It pays to recall that Afghanistan became the world
headquarters for al Qaeda because the Taliban welcomed bin Laden with
open arms. The Taliban and al Qaeda share the same worldview and the
same enemy. Given the terror that was unleashed when the Taliban was
in power—and their brutality since being ousted from power—there’s no
reason to think Mullah Omar and his henchmen have changed. CIA
Director David Petraeus certainly doesn’t think so. A year ago, when
asked to make the case for staying the course, then-Gen. Petraeus
bluntly replied, “Two words…Nine Eleven,” reminding us of what
happened the last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan.
Moreover, when it comes to commitment, it pays to recall, as Karzai
surely has, that the Obama administration always keeps its eyes on
the calendar and the exit sign—and has little regard for standing
agreements with allies. Obama casually scrapped a hard-earned missile-
defense agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic in order to get
an arms control treaty of questionable merit with Russia; jettisoned
Mubarak when the going got tough in Egypt; and when NATO allies made
an urgent request for an extension of U.S. air power during the Libya
war, a NATO official took pains to emphasize that America’s
help “expires on Monday”—a bruising metaphor for what passes as
American leadership in the age of Obama.
III. The document calls on NATO member states “to sustain and improve
Afghan security capabilities beyond 2014 by taking concrete measures
to implement” previous security agreements.
Good luck with that. Following Washington’s lead, NATO is headed for
the exits. From the beginning, most NATO members have been half-
hearted about the Afghanistan mission. Consider: The United States is
contributing 71 percent of all forces to the mission; non-NATO
members Australia, Georgia and Sweden have more troops deployed than
Belgium, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal—
all founding members of the alliance; Germany, Italy and Spain
refused to help in Afghanistan’s restive south; Italy didn’t permit
its fighter-bombers in Afghanistan to carry bombs; and German troops,
until recently, were required to shout warnings to enemy forces—in
three languages—before opening fire.
Beyond Afghanistan, NATO nations are slashing their militaries. The
consequences are already on full display. In Libya, without the U.S.
in the lead, NATO was found woefully lacking in munitions, targeting
and jamming capabilities, mid-air refueling planes, reconnaissance
platforms, drones, and command-and-control assets—just about
everything needed to conduct a 21st-century air war.
IV. The document commits Afghanistan to providing “access to and use
of Afghan facilities through 2014…for the purposes of combating al
Qaeda and its affiliates.” That’s an important codicil, especially
given Pakistan’s instability and duplicity—and given al Qaeda’s past
record and future goals.
Regarding Pakistan, the country is a nuclear basket-case, a political
mess, a metastasis of terror, the spawning ground of the Taliban and
the final address of Osama bin Laden. It’s a sad irony that Pakistan
was once the jumping-off point for targeting terrorists in
Afghanistan, but Afghanistan is now the jumping-off point for
targeting terrorists in Pakistan.
As to the goals of bin Laden’s terror network, it was brought to
light this week that bin Laden was working with his deputies, the
Taliban high command and the Haqqani network on a plan for ousting
Karzai and taking control of Afghanistan. Doubtless, these plans have
survived bin Laden’s passing.
V. The document views “any external aggression against Afghanistan”
with “grave concern”—and appropriately so. Elements within Pakistan’s
military-security apparatus are funding and supporting a brutal
guerilla war against the Afghan government and its American guardians.
Yet in this same document, just a few paragraphs away, the United
States “pledges not to use Afghan territory or facilities as a
launching point for attacks against other countries.”
How does that fit with other parts of the document? How these two
concepts even be included in the same document?
VI. Finally, the document calls on both sides to “initiate
negotiations on a Bilateral Security Agreement. Negotiations should
begin after the signing of this Strategic Partnership Agreement, with
the goal of concluding within one year a Bilateral Security
Setting aside the exquisitely Obama-esque (and downright silly)
exercise of agreeing on an agreement in order to reach another
agreement—one recalls the scene from “Office Space” featuring a
whiteboard with the phrase “Planning to Plan” scrawled above an
elaborate flow chart—it’s not unreasonable to ask if the president
will live up to this agreement of agreements. After all, the United
States and Iraq engaged in similar negotiations, building toward what
most observers thought would be a long-term bilateral security
partnership. American and Iraqi military commanders, as well as State
Department officials and the Iraqi foreign ministry, counted on a
modest-sized force of U.S. troops to provide security and training.
Indeed, as Frederick Kagan, one of the architects of the surge,
explained, “Painstaking staff work in Iraq led General Lloyd Austin
to recommend trying to keep more than 20,000 troops in Iraq after the
end of 2011.” The troops would not be there to fight, but rather to
deter flare-ups, train Iraq’s nascent army, secure key facilities and
back up their Iraqi partners.
But then the president undercut the delicate negotiations with a take-
it-or-leave-it offer of a residual force of just 3,000 troops—a force
not even large enough to protect itself. When Baghdad balked, as
Kagan reported last year, “The White House then dropped the matter
entirely and decided instead to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by
the end of , despite the fact that no military commander
supported the notion that such a course of action could secure U.S.
interests.” That bears repeating: “No military commander supported” a
But President Obama knew better. (Copyright © 2012
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