March 29, 2014

Karzai and the Bilateral Security Agreement

    Saturday, March 29, 2014   No comments

by Jacob Havel 
Sitting Afghani President Hamid Karzai remains defiant towards U.S. demands that he sign the Bilateral Security Agreement. If signed, the agreement would allow for continued military cooperation between Afghanistan and the U.S.+NATO including troop presence, monetary aid, and continued training of Afghani security forces. 

While many see Western aid as vital, Karzai’s dissonance is a result of unmet requests that the U.S. would actively pursue peace talks with Taliban leaders. While the U.S. outwardly seeks to continue counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, neither they nor the Taliban have shown interest in pursuing such negotiations. On the contrary, the Taliban have vowed to increase violence in the weeks leading up to the April presidential elections. Indeed, recent attacks on a police station in Jalalabad and a hotel in Kabul have shown that the Taliban will seek to perpetuate a state of disorder and terror even with the election of new leadership. 

Moreover, there is the looming “zero-option” threat, whereby a complete withdrawal of U.S. military personnel would take place. The possibility of this scenario has led to speculations that desertion and unsustainable military infrastructure could lead to increased Taliban aggression and large scale civil war.
In light of this outlook, the imperative nature of Western military support has been acknowledged by all three of the major presidential candidates and hope remains that the BSA would be signed once Karzai is replaced. Furthermore, the high utility of Afghanistan as a base for regional counter-terrorism operations (i.e. Bin Laden raid) suggests that the “zero option” is more of a political statement than an impending reality. The question remains: why all of the political posturing from Karzai? 

The simple answer is that Karzai is using the lame-duck phase of his presidency to distance himself from a legacy as a Western puppet. However, a more meaningful statement could lie behind Karzai’s actions. It is evident that in the twelve years since the U.S. invasion, the Taliban is still very much alive in Afghanistan. Moreover, the U.S. has been increasingly associated with special operations events and drone strikes that have resulted in the seemingly unjustified deaths of Afghani civilians. It is therefore possible that Karzai sees past and current U.S. “counter-terrorism” efforts as a colossal failure. Worse yet, it is possible that U.S. “aid” is little more than a disingenuous guise used to justify a military presence within Afghanistan’s strategic geographic position. 

Indeed, the reluctance to even consider diplomatic avenues in the wake of impotent military efforts is indicative that the U.S. sees the current level of Taliban activity as status quo that can be used as justification for continued military presence. It is not such an impossible idea when considering the U.S. habit of creating new “terror” groups by simply labeling them as such. It is in this sense that they continually create new villains and validate a particular brand of justice that perpetuates a domineering presence across the Islamic world. In any case, the eventuality of an agreement outside Karzai’s leadership is suggestive that his refusal could in fact be a genuine attempt to make an ethical stand against unsavory Western motivations.


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