I’m not sure why this isn’t a bigger story this afternoon.
Afghanistan and the United States signed a long-awaited security pact in Kabul Tuesday, allowing Washington to leave a contingent of troops in the country beyond 2014. Ambassador James Cunningham signed the Bilateral Security Agreement on behalf of the White House, opposite Afghanistan’s national security adviser Mohmmad Hanif Atmar.The deal follows the inauguration Monday of new president Ashraf Ghani, after a protracted election process that lasted six months.
Hamid Karzai has famously balked for quite a while at such an agreement, but Ghani clearly does not share those concerns.
“This is a turning point in our relations with world,” Ghani said at the signing ceremony. “There are common threats and we need to have common partnership to fight it. We have the will to bring about peace and stability to this country.”
In a statement issued by the White House, the Obama administration added, “After nearly two years of hard work by negotiating teams on both sides, earlier today in Kabul the United States and the new Afghan Government of National Unity signed a Bilateral Security Agreement.” The legal framework, the statement added, will help cover, among other things, “critical missions after 2014.”
OK, but how much after 2014?
My colleague Mike Yarvitz took a closer look at the agreement itself, which included this language:
“This Agreement shall enter into force on January 1, 2015, after the Parties notify one another through diplomatic channels of the completion of their respective internal legal requirements necessary for the entry into force of this Agreement. It shall remain in force until the end of 2024 and beyond, unless terminated pursuant to paragraph 4 of this Article.”
Hmm. The longest war in the history of the United States is still ongoing, and today officials signed an agreement that will keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan through “2024 and beyond.”
We can have a debate about whether or not that’s a sound foreign policy, but therein lies the point: there doesn’t appear to be any debate. Indeed, perusing most of the major news outlets this afternoon, it seems few have even taken notice of this agreement at all.
I suppose the security deal was expected at some point, which makes it less exciting, but we’re still talking about a war that started in 2001. There are nuances as to whether or not this means the “war” will still be ongoing in 2024 and beyond – there are still many U.S. troops, for example, in Germany and Japan – but given the new agreement, it certainly sounds as if American servicemen and women can expect to maintain some kind of combat role.
And that role will continue indefinitely.
As Rachel noted on the show last night, officials in Afghanistan have been debating and negotiating over this for months. Our Congress has said and done practically nothing, and for most of the country, these developments will go completely unnoticed. There are plenty of legitimate, life-or-death questions about the mission, and in Washington, those questions aren’t even being asked.