Afghan President Hamid Karzai continues to stall on signing the already agreed-upon Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). The basics of the agreement will leave a small contingency of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to train Afghani forces and help with counter-terrorism operations beyond 2014. It is going into the third month of 2014, and it does not seem as if Karzai is planning to sign anything beyond a restaurant check. He has stalled for months, which is even starting to anger the Afghani troops, who realize the Taliban is just waiting in the wings for the United States to withdraw.
The Afghan War has been 12 years running, since the United States invaded the country in 2001, following the 9/11 attacks. Ten years later, the head of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, is killed in Operation Neptune Spear, a CIA-planned operation executed by Seal Team Six. The war continues but starts to wind down, with the Taliban seeking control of rural Afghanistan. The Taliban operates on the level of an insurgency, operating mostly throughout Afghanistan, despite the momentum having been broken. It is more likely slowed, but not completely broken.
Hence, the BSA. Afghanistan, under elected President Hamid Karzai, seeks to maintain the security of the country without the intervention of foreign forces. So, one would think Karzai would be eager to sign the agreement. But such has not been the case. Instead, he releases prisoners suspected to have caused U.S. troop casualties, and continues with his rhetoric against the United States.
An Afghani troop commander, remaining anonymous for fear of Karzai’s reprisal, has said they need U.S. support beyond 2014. They were not yet fully trained to handle the Taliban insurgency. Karzai’s rhetoric and reasons for not signing is due to Afghani civilians killed in the crossfires between NATO forces and the Taliban. He also wants a peace process started with the Taliban or he will continue to refuse to sign the BSA, despite the Loya Jurga, the assembly of Afghan elders, insisting that he do so.
What is all of this leading up to? Obama, via a phone call, let Karzai know in no uncertain terms that he will urge the Pentagon to have a plan in place to withdraw all U.S. troops and support from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Obama has expressed frustration with the Afghani leader, who may have been lulled into believing Obama may not be serious since U.S. diplomats have repeatedly set and broken deadlines for the BSA signing. Karzai, however, has also said if he is not elected in May, the new leader must best decide how to deal with the United States. Obama is already making overtures to prospective leaders about the country’s security concerns.
So, it looks as if Obama may simply wait it out to see if Karzai will remain in power, since he has already proven he will continue to stall on signing the BSA. One might ask, in the end, what is the point? Karzai gets elected and continues to stall on signing the BSA and the United States pulls out completely, leaving inadequately trained troops to deal with the Taliban on its own. Or, someone else gets elected and immediately signs the BSA. Either way, it is a lose-lose situation for Karzai.