Congress to Karzai: Sign the Darn Security Pact Already

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: H.E. Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan speaks during the Opening Ceremony & Leaders Panel at the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum at ExCel on October 29, 2013 in London, England.
National Journal
Sara Sorcher
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Sara Sorcher
Dec. 4, 2013, 3:13 p.m.

As of last week­end, the much-an­ti­cip­ated se­cur­ity pact gov­ern­ing the fu­ture of Amer­ic­an troops in Afgh­anistan looked good to go. Days after Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry tri­umphantly an­nounced agree­ment on the fi­nal lan­guage, a con­ven­tion of Afgh­anistan’s 2,500 tri­bal eld­ers gave their ap­prov­al.

Yet there was one last-minute — and sur­pris­ing — road­b­lock after more than a year of tough ne­go­ti­ations over the post-2014 part­ner­ship between the two na­tions: Afghan Pres­id­ent Ham­id Kar­zai. Now mem­bers of Con­gress, in­creas­ingly frus­trated with this some­times-vex­ing ally, are fir­ing back.

“That agree­ment needs to be signed as soon as pos­sible,” House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber Adam Smith, D-Wash., told Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily. The U.S.-led co­ali­tion was ex­pec­ted to leave a fol­low-on force of 8,000 to 12,000 troops in Afgh­anistan after the com­bat mis­sion form­ally ends in 2014 — but seni­or U.S. of­fi­cials stress the agree­ment must be signed by year-end to pre­pare for that mis­sion. “There’s a lead time here,” Smith said. “It’s not like we can wait un­til the ab­so­lute last minute and de­cide to stay.”

Kar­zai wants to sign the agree­ment only after his suc­cessor is elec­ted in April, and he has ad­ded new de­mands, in­clud­ing for the U.S. to re­lease Afghans held at Guantanamo Bay. “I don’t know that people an­ti­cip­ated, with the loya jirga [grand coun­cil] hav­ing ap­proved it and Kar­zai’s Cab­in­et be­ing in fa­vor of it, that Kar­zai would turn out to be the biggest obstacle,” said House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee mem­ber Adam Schiff, D-Cal­if.

Re­fer­ring to Kar­zai, House Armed Ser­vices Vice Chair­man Mac Thorn­berry, R”‘Texas, quipped: “I don’t know what’s go­ing on with him.”

“I think that [his] volat­il­ity is part of the prob­lem,” Thorn­berry ad­ded. “Re­ports that I read are that the Afghans them­selves are get­ting fed up with it…. The best out­come here is for the Afghans to say, “˜We can’t con­tin­ue this; we need to sign the agree­ment and know what’s ahead for our coun­try.’ “ The longer the un­cer­tainty con­tin­ues, he said, the more likely loc­al lead­ers will hedge their bets and side with the Taliban.

“His abil­ity to kind of act out or be dif­fi­cult to deal with nev­er sur­prises us,” said Sen. Robert Ca­sey, D-Pa. “But I don’t think we should over­ana­lyze what he says some­times, be­cause ob­vi­ously he’s deal­ing with his own polit­ic­al or do­mest­ic cir­cum­stances. I think the most im­port­ant thing is to just keep push­ing to get an agree­ment … do everything we can to make sure the sac­ri­fices our fight­ing men and wo­men and our tax­pay­ers made are go­ing to be val­id­ated.”

Some Re­pub­lic­ans feel it’s time for Pres­id­ent Obama to be­come more dir­ectly in­volved. “The pres­id­ent didn’t en­gage in a way that al­lowed Amer­ica and Ir­aq to cut a deal to provide for the sta­bil­ity of that coun­try, and we see the con­sequences of that now,” said an aide to the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, which is chaired by Rep. Buck McK­eon, R-Cal­if. “It’s cru­cial in the chair­man’s mind that the pres­id­ent weigh in and not wait un­til the last minute, un­til the clock runs out, and walk away,” the aide said.

Some mem­bers were sens­it­ive to Kar­zai’s pre­dic­a­ment. “Kar­zai is look­ing ahead to his leg­acy and his sur­viv­al once he leaves of­fice — I think both lit­er­ally and fig­ur­at­ively,” Schiff said. “What the Afghans prize most in their lead­ers is stand­ing up to for­eign oc­cu­pi­ers, and I think this is his way of leav­ing a last­ing im­pres­sion of de­fi­ance, even of his al­lies.”

Schiff cau­tioned that Kar­zai is mak­ing the wrong bet, con­sid­er­ing the gen­er­al at­ti­tude Amer­ic­ans have to­ward the Afghan war. “It un­der­es­tim­ates the de­gree to which the Amer­ic­an pub­lic would em­brace the zero op­tion,” he said.

There is “little ap­pet­ite from the Amer­ic­an pub­lic for put­ting our troops at risk for an­oth­er in­def­in­ite peri­od of time,” Schiff said, “and little en­thu­si­asm for spend­ing ad­di­tion­al bil­lions of dol­lars in Afgh­anistan when a lot of that money leaves the coun­try in suit­cases of cash. So I think it’s a very ill-con­sidered gamble.”

What We're Following See More »
“OUR MOVEMENT IS ABOUT LOVE”
Trump Again Brings Up Charlottesville in Angry Speech
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

Vice President Pence and other speakers in Phoenix Tuesday night appealed "for unity and healing." President Trump himself said his movement "is about love." But then he became animated and angry as he revisited his comments about Charlottesville, reading them aloud. "You know where my heart is. I’m only doing this to show you how damned dishonest these people are,” he said. He also suggested he still intends to pardon controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Source:
THE PRESIDENT’S POCKET
16th Charity Cancels Function at Mar-a-Lago
20 hours ago
THE LATEST
OVER N. KOREA NUCLEAR PROGRAMS
U.S. Imposes Sanctions on 16 Companies
22 hours ago
THE LATEST
U.N. REPORT REVEALS DETAILS
North Korean Chemical Weapons Shipments to Syria Intercepted
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Two North Korean shipments to a Syrian government agency responsible for the country's chemical weapons program were intercepted in the past six months, according to a confidential United Nations report on North Korea sanctions violations."

Source:
PARTICIPATES IN TOWN HALL TONIGHT
Ryan: “There Are No Sides” on Charlottesville
1 days ago
THE LATEST

After taking fire for not forcefully condemning President Trump's statements on Charlottesville, Speaker Paul Ryan today issued a statement that takes issue with any "moral relativism" when it comes to Neo-Nazis. "There are no sides," he wrote. "There is no other argument. We will not tolerate this hateful ideology in our society." Ryan participates in a CNN town hall tonight from Racine, Wis.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login