4 years ago
Roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour, Step right this way!
According to this New York Times article, the Obama Administration has just completed the “draft” of a long-term security agreement with the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that provides a “framework” for support and assistance from the U.S. for at least ten years after the 2014 draw-down of U.S. forces:
The agreement, whose text was not released, represents an important moment when the United States begins the transition from being the predominant foreign force in Afghanistan to serving a more traditional role of supportive ally.
By broadly redefining the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States, the deal builds on hard-won new understandings the two countries reached in recent weeks on the thorny issues of detainees and Special Operations raids. It covers social and economic development, institution building, regional cooperation and security.
Sounds terrific! Let’s all hop on this bus and ride away in the sunset because this promises to be a swell ride.
Wait. It’s just a draft and the actual, written text hasn’t been released? So, we don’t actually know what is in it?
And the NYT article is extremely sparse on sources or attribution?
So what we have here is a very general agreement to get around to having a specific agreement in the very near future, right?
In many respects the strategic partnership agreement is more symbolic than substantive. It does not lay out specific dollar amounts of aid or name programs that the Americans will support; the financing must be authorized and appropriated by Congress from year to year.
Nor does it lay out specifically what the American military and security presence will be after 2014 or what role it will play. A more detailed security agreement is to come later, perhaps in the next year, Western diplomats said, once it becomes clear how much support European nations will give to the Afghan security forces.
I see. A “more detailed security agreement is to come later, perhaps in the next year…” After the November elections, of course. But the U.S. has committed itself to keeping the Afghan government and its security forces as a viable entity, right?
Even so, the United States expects to make substantial contributions toward the cost of Afghanistan’s security forces beyond 2014. A total figure for the United States of $2.7 billion a year has been discussed, and it could easily be more; there would most likely be aid for civilian programs as well.
That would be a steep reduction from the amount the United States now spends here, which has been $110 billion to $120 billion a year since the “surge” in American troop levels began in 2010, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Sorry, folks. Get off the Obama Mystery Tour Bus. This thing is going nowhere. No specific commitments, funding slashed to $2.7 billion per year from over $100 billion per year and meager U.S. combat forces.
Interestingly, Max Boot is still a true believer in the Mystery Tour. He recently penned an editorial for The Wall Street Journal that is pure, hilarious fantasy. Or it would be if Mr. Boot did not seem to seriously believe the notion that the U.S. can still save Afghanistan:
The bulk of future fighting must be carried out by the Afghans themselves, but in order to have any chance of success they must have enough troops to garrison a far-flung country of 30 million people. And that in turn will require outside funding. The Kabul government remains too impoverished to pay its own security costs.
Maintaining an Afghan force of 350,000 soldiers and police, the level which will be reached this year, will require $6 billion a year. Yet the Obama administration wants to provide only $4.1 billion a year. That would require laying off 120,000 soldiers and cops—a move that would significantly destabilize Afghanistan without producing significant savings in a $3.8 trillion U.S. budget.
If we avoid such unforced errors and stick with the plans developed by Gens. Stanley McChrystal, David Petraeus and John Allen, we have a good chance to maintain a pro-Western regime in power. The Taliban are too weak to defeat us or our Afghan allies. But we can defeat ourselves.
As the recent posts by Herschel Smith amply demonstrate, Afghanistan is going to hell in a hand basket and the American people know it full well. Mr. Boot himself acknowledges that it is less and less likely that his recipe for avoiding defeat in Afghanistan can be attained and yet he makes the argument nonetheless. It is part and parcel of the same fantasy that Obama is selling, that Afghanistan can make a transition from U.S. combat forces leading the fight to Afghan security forces taking over. It is not going to happen. The ANA and police are a farce and no amount of training is going to change that in any time frame that matters. Long-term security agreements are a laughable dog-and-pony show for the electorate, but very few people are fooled this time around.