The order came after President Obama spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday. President Obama has determined that Karzai is unlikely sign a long-delayed bilateral security agreement, “which would provide US troops with critical protections and authorities after 2014,” said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
The White House said in a statement that President Hamid Karzai has demonstrated that he has no intention of signing an agreement and that the Pentagon has been instructed “to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal, in the event the US would not keep any troops in Afghanistan past 2014.
The Commander in Chief left the door open for Karzai’s successor, to be chosen in April, to sign the pact. Obama told the Afghan president that should there be a willing and committed partner in the Afghan government that it would be in the interests of both countries to leave a limited training and counter-terrorism force in place.
The longer the two nations go without a “Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA)”, the less likely it will be that a substantial force will remain in the war torn country.
Karzai has been forceful in demanding that any residual US force come under the jurisdiction of the Afghan judicial system, while the US wants a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that would give US and NATO troops immunity from Afghan law.
While no specific number has been given for a proposed residual force, at least in public, the idea of 10,000 US, along with 5,000 NATO troops has been floated as an option.
Troops would probably include a training cadre to continue supporting and training Afghan Security Forces, a drone base and a small counter-terrorism force. There has been concern raised by analysts how safe this residual force would be once combat troops are withdrawn.
Withdrawing all US and NATO troops has been an aim of the administration since the president ordered the surge. There is some concern on how orderly this withdrawal can be and some analysts have warned of another Vietnam type exit.
Over 4,000 US and NATO troops have died in Afghanistan. In addition there are thousands of wounded warriors and those suffering with mental health issues. Returning veterans face long waiting periods to have disability claims approved and VA hospitals have difficulty keeping up with the patient load in their care Add to that higher than normal unemployment than in the general population and this will put additional stress on returning veterans. The Pentagon announced deep cuts to the strength of the US Army, which will unquestionable add to the burden.
Many UN and Non Government Organizations (NGOs) have worked in Afghanistan, with the protection of US and NATO troops and all of this seems to be sacrificed now. Will Afghanistan be the “Graveyard of Empires,” now including the US, it is famous for?