US and Afghanistan sign status of forces agreement
Hindsight may be 20/20, but criticizing the president for failing to keep American soldiers in Iraq after 2011 has little to do with hindsight. He was told by some of the best military minds in the country what would happen if he pulled out completely from Iraq It happened, and he has no one but himself to blame.
Did the president learn a lesson from Iraq that he is now applying to Afghanistan? With a new Afghan government in place, a new status of forces agreement has been successfully negotiated and signed.
The United States and Afghanistan signed a security agreement on Tuesday that would allow nearly 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in the country to help train and advise the Afghanistan military.
The deal, according to reports, would allow 9,800 troops to remain in the country beyond the end of the year and allow some bases to remain open. It would also bar U.S. military from being prosecuted under Afghanistan law. A separate agreement would allow a small number of NATO forces to remain.
The signing came the day after new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was sworn in after a months-long election battle with his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah. Abdullah took a post as chief executive under a power-sharing agreement.
Both Afghan presidential candidates had vowed to sign the status of forces agreement during the campaign, something the previous president, Hamid Karzai, had resisted.
Throughout the year, the United States has sought the agreement with Afghanistan to allow a small number of U.S. forces to remain in the country to help train Afghan forces and for other counterterrorism efforts.
But after a number of failed attempts to get an agreement with Karzai, the former Afghan president said a deal would likely have to wait for his successor.
President Obama announced he was looking for a "responsible end" to the war in Afghanistan during his visit to the country in May. At the time, he outlined the administration's plan to draw down all but 9,800 of the 32,000 troops that remained in the country by the end of the year. That number will fall even lower by 2016.
Unlike the Iraq government, the Afghan government realizes how weak its position is. They are agreeing to maintaining an American force in the country because their military and police are not nearly ready to face the Taliban alone. In the case of Iraq, President Obama lost paitenice with Prime MInister Maliki and got tired of waiting for the compromises from the Iraqi government that would have allowed a residual force to stay - significantly, the article that would have prevented American personnel from being prosecuted in the notoriously corrupt Iraqi courts.Maliki dug in his heels on that issue and the president eventually gave up and brought the troops home.
The Afghan army is not as far along as the Iraqi army was in 2011 when we left. Obviously there was deterioration in morale and fighting ability between then and now due to sectarianism, cronyism, and corruption. In Afghanistan, the record has been spotty. The handover of security to the Afghanistan government has gone well in some provinces and been a disaster in others. Will two more years of training help develop leadership and confidence in the Afghan army?
We better hope so because apparently, that's all the time they're going to get.