U.S., Afghanistan Sign Agreement To Keep 10,000 U.S. Troops In Country Past 2014

U.S. troops will be in Afghanistan for at least the next three years.

US Afghanistan

After months of delay due mostly to intransigence by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the United States and Afghanistan have entered into an agreement that will keep American troops in Afghanistan past 2014, largely in a training role:

KABUL, Afghanistan — Nearly a year after a long-term deal to keep American troops in Afghanistan was suddenly derailed amid worsening relations, Afghanistan and the United States signed the security pact on Tuesday.

The agreement allows 9,800 American and about 2,000 NATO troops to remain in Afghanistan after the international combat mission formally ends on Dec. 31. Their role will be to train and support Afghan security forces, but the pact also allows for American Special Operations forces to conduct counterterrorism missions in the country.

The signing, in a televised ceremony at the presidential palace, fulfilled a campaign promise by the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, who was inaugurated just a day before. As Mr. Ghani watched, Ambassador James B. Cunningham signed for the United States, and the new Afghan national security adviser, Hanif Atmar, signed for Afghanistan.

After months of wrangling on the terms of the bilateral security agreement last year, President Hamid Karzai ultimately refused to sign it, souring relations between the two countries.

In his inauguration speech on Monday, Mr. Ghani called for the healing of that relationship, and for a new era of cooperation. On Tuesday, however, he was more focused on the Afghan interest, emphasizing that the agreement had been signed “in accordance with our national interests,” and that it would open the doors for a continuation of civilian and military aid to his hist government.

Pointedly noting that Western donors had promised Afghanistan $16 billion in economic aid, he said that Afghanistan and the West had “shared dangers and shared interests.”

But he also addressed lingering Afghan sovereignty concerns, stressing that international forces would not be allowed to raid mosques or other sacred sites; foreign contractors would be subject to strict government regulation; and that both countries have the right to withdraw from the pact in two years.

American officials, for their part, appeared simply relieved that an episode that had stirred much rancor — and multiple diplomatic interventions by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry — had finally come to an end.

After signing the pact in Kabul, Mr. Cunningham smiled and firmly embraced Mr. Atmar. Speaking later, he called it a historic agreement, and said that the endorsement of Afghan tribal leaders, who met to approve the pact last December, showed that “the people of Afghanistan placed a great stake in our enduring partnership.”

In Washington, Mr. Obama hailed the agreement and said the United States was committed to supporting Afghanistan.

“The B.S.A. reflects our continued commitment to support the new Afghan Unity Government, and we look forward to working with this new government to cement an enduring partnership that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability, unity, and prosperity, and that contributes to our shared goal of defeating Al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates,” he said in a statement released by the White House.

It was essentially a foregone conclusion that the agreement would eventually be signed since, despite Karzai’s intransigence, both of the main candidates to succeed Mr. Karzai supported the agreement, as did virtually the entire Afghan political establishment in Kabul. At the same time, Karzai’s refusal to sign off on the very agreement his representatives had negotiated with, combined with increasingly anti-American rhetoric on his part that included claims that he didn’t need American troops to stay and which reached its height in a bitter farewell address last week, had soured relationships between Kabul and Washington. At several points over the last year the United States made clear that it would pull all American troops out of the country of the agreement wasn’t signed, and for a time at least disputes over the legitimacy of the election seemed to threaten to delay the succession from Karzai to whomever won the election long enough that questions would be raised about whether the U.S. would be able to keep troops in the country at all. As it was, even though the President had announced a plan that would keep a small training force in Afghanistan until 2017, there were already plans being made for a “zero option” that would have left no troops in country after the end of this year if it proved impossible to reach an agreement.

Ideally, I would prefer that there be no American troops in Afghanistan after the end of the year. Practically, however, the combination of the fact that the President has been saying for the better part of a year that he preferred if there were a training/Special Forces force left behind for some limited period and what has happened in Iraq in recent months makes this somewhat inevitable. Fairly or not, and I would argue mostly unfairly, the President has gotten much criticism for not leaving a residual force behind in Iraq. Given that, his support for a residual training force in Afghanistan is unsurprising. The question now, of course, is whether that 2017 deadline that the President set in his speech earlier this year will actually hold, or if we’re looking at the beginning of a far more long term commitment.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    I’ll be standing over here…waiting for all the wing-nuts who have been complaining that Obama followed Bush’s Status of Forces Agreement…to complain about this now.

  2. Guarneri says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Why don’t you and Lois Lerner bake some brownies while you wait.

  3. DonVito says:

    @Guarneri:

    at least he didn’t blame Cheney. It’s funny how he skims the article and then reflexively blames Republicans. It could be an article about any topic and the response is always something like Bush did this and Cheney did that so please ignore the article and anything negative about Obama.

    I do i fact support leaving troops in Afghanistan. It was dumb policy to outline specific dates for withdrawal. anyway, whats the difference? It’s a staggering number of how many troops we have overseas in quite a few countries. I do sometimes think this is the status quo and if we suddenly withdraw all troops, unemployment would go up quite a bit. As for Obama, I have considered him mostly disinterested the last year in foreign policy, but I do support his recent actions in attacking ISIS. I also think it’s pointless now to wonder what should have been done and to just focus on defeating our enemies.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    @Guarneri:
    @DonVito:
    Thanks for being the first wing-nuts.

    I also think it’s pointless now to wonder what should have been done

    Right…because learning from your mistakes is so passe…better to live in the post-modern Republican world where the facts are simply what you wish them to be…policy is so much easier!!!

  5. DonVito says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Where are the adults today? Reynolds, gregwills, bernius? I’m not interested in conversing with someone who is intellectually disabled. thats why i replied to Guarenri and not you.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    @DonVito:

    thats why i replied to Guarenri

    Oh, I see…you thought you were whispering in Drew’s ear.
    Here’s a surprise for you…I can also read your comments.
    And I can reply to them.
    I realize it might be frustrating when the ridiculousness of your comment is pointed out.
    Maybe OTB can institute a whisper policy just for you.

  7. DonVito says:

    @C. Clavin:

    The only thing that is ridiculous on here is you. you should really read the dribble you spew on here every day and i think you might draw the same conclusion. Your very presence here automatically brings down the quality of this website. The only reason you come here is to fight with Republicans and to get people to like you. There is never any substantive comments but only hate. I truly pity you, i really do.

  8. stonetools says:

    In light of what is happening in Iraq, I reluctantly conclude that a residual force in Afghanistan for training purposes may be a good idea.

    Fairly or not, and I would argue mostly unfairly, the President has gotten much criticism for not leaving a residual force behind in Iraq

    The conservative critics of the President should now shut up on this issue. Of course they won’t.

  9. C. Clavin says:

    @DonVito:
    I was truly hurt…then I remembered your policy ideas based on quotes from movies.
    Look tiger…you trolled me in your comment.
    Don’t then cry to me because you don’t like the outcome.

  10. DonVito says:

    @C. Clavin:

    i know you are hurt. You’re a miserable person that’s obviously without love in their life. Anyone could see that. Only someone who detests themselves so much can spread so much hate here on a daily basis. btw, you’re not worth trolling. Not even a squirt of piss if you were on fire.

  11. anjin-san says:

    This is hardly a surprise. That being said, I would really like to be done with Afghanistan. Ten years ago would have probably been a good time to get out.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @DonVito:

    you’re not worth trolling.

    Yet…you can’t quit me.
    Apparently I do have love in my life, sweetie!!!
    Swoon…

  13. C. Clavin says:

    @anjin-san:
    We should have approached Afghanistan similar to how we are ISIS.
    Bomb the ones responsible for 9.11…then get out.
    Perhaps the caves would be an issue…

  14. Robert C. says:

    Waste. Of. Time.
    Waste. Of. Money.
    Waste. Of. Lives.
    Nothing will change in 3 years.
    Some people just can’t let go of empire.
    RC

  15. steve says:

    So we are paying them $16 billion to let us keep troops there. That sucks. If these countries want us to stay, they should pas agreements broadly supported by their political groups and, if anything, they should pay us.

    Steve

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @steve:

    Afghanistan has like 12 dollars to their name. Their number one export is illegal, and their number two export is rocks.

    But come on, Steve, you kind of have to admire the chutzpah of a guy who would steal a billion dollars from us and then bitch us out on his way to Switzerland.