Archive for the 'Afghanistan SOFA' Category



Obama’s Magical Mystery Tour: Long Term Afghan Security Agreement

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 4 months 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.

Dangerous Precedents in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 10 months ago

From Stars and Stripes:

SHAH JOY DISTRICT, Afghanistan — An Afghan army commander whom American troops had dubbed “Snoop” was angry, accusing a U.S. dog handler of allowing his Labrador retriever to sniff a copy of the Quran while searching a cluster of villages that U.S. forces suspect is a Taliban stronghold.

The commander — named for his resemblance to the rapper Snoop Dog — warned 2nd Lt. Blake Wyant of Company C, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment that he and his men were ready to quit the village and never work with American forces again.

Wyant, 24, of Sioux City, Iowa, listened patiently until Snoop threatened to kill the dog if the incident happened a second time. Muslims consider dogs to be unclean.

Speaking through an interpreter, Wyant looked evenly at the Afghan commander.

“You tell him that’s not going to happen,” he said. “You tell him that shooting that dog would be just like shooting an American soldier.”

The incident and several others during the three-day mission last week in a suspected Taliban stronghold underscored the fundamental challenges that U.S. troops face in Afghanistan. As the war drags into its ninth year, and as President Barack Obama contemplates sending thousands more troops, Americans are fighting alongside Afghan government forces more closely than ever. But it’s an uneasy alliance.

Wyant and Snoop struck a compromise. The handler and his dog would not search any more houses without an Afghan interpreter present. Later, after Snoop and his men had moved on, the interpreter told Wyant that they had actually threatened to kill not only the dog, but all of the U.S. soldiers in the village as well.

“Well, I know that isn’t going to happen,” Wyant said. “We’re much better shots than they are.”

U.S. and other international troops are now also fighting under strict new counterinsurgency guidelines laid down in September by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The rules emphasize protecting Afghan civilians over destroying the Taliban. The goal is to convince Afghans, worn down by 30 years of warfare, that the Afghan government and its security forces offer them a better life than the insurgents.

Under the new policy, Afghan soldiers and police have been thrust to the forefront, with U.S. and other international troops playing more of a supporting role. U.S. soldiers say the policy has led to several changes in how they conduct operations, including a rule that prohibits them from cutting locks on doors while searching for weapons and explosives. That task is to be handled by Afghans.

But during their mission here, U.S. soldiers complained frequently that when Afghan troops came across a locked door, they left it alone if they couldn’t find anyone to let them inside — a practice that many soldiers said works in the Taliban’s favor.

“The ANA (Afghan National Army) is supposed to do that, but they don’t want to,” said Wyant. “You could probably put a lot of stuff in a room and lock it up, and we wouldn’t be able to get to it.”

Other soldiers said new rules have severely limited how they can react to enemy threats. Several soldiers recounted how, on Aug. 20, as Afghans cast their votes for president, they received mortar fire from a Taliban position in a village. The fighters were out of range of rifle fire, but the troops couldn’t fire back with heavy weapons because the Taliban position was in a populated area.

“You could see the house where they were shooting from,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Spaulding, 39, of Spring Hill, Fla. “They’d shoot, and then they’d walk around the side of the house to see where the rounds were impacting.”

“The enemy is smart,” he said. “They fire at us from a building inside a village, and they know we can’t fire back at them.”

Other soldiers said the restrictions were placing U.S. forces at too much risk.

“The rules of engagement here are so strict there is nothing we can do,” said Staff Sgt. Gary Grose, 31, of Alexandria, La. “We kind of shadow the ANA and drive around and get blown up.”

“It’s like tying a boxer’s hands and then throwing him into the ring and telling him he can’t use his feet to kick,” Grose said.

Analysis & Commentary

There were problems not dissimilar to these in Iraq.

… the Iraqi brigade, which is predominantly Shiite, was assigned a new area and instructed to stay away from Nasr Wa Salam, Colonel Pinkerton said. But he said he believed that the Iraqi soldiers remain intent on preventing Sunni Arabs, a majority here, from controlling the area. He cites a pattern of aggression by Iraqi troops toward Abu Azzam’s men and other Sunnis, who he believes are often detained for no reason.

Recently, and without warning, Colonel Pinkerton said, 80 Iraqi soldiers in armored vehicles charged out of their sector toward Nasr Wa Salam but were blocked by an American platoon. The Iraqis refused to say where they were going and threatened to drive right through the American soldiers, whom they greatly outnumbered.

Eventually, with Apache helicopter gunships circling overhead and American gunners aiming their weapons at them, the Iraqi soldiers retreated. “It hasn’t come to firing bullets yet,” Colonel Pinkerton said … Pinkerton’s experiences here, he said, have inverted the usual American instincts born of years of hard fighting against Sunni insurgents.

“I could stand among 1,800 Sunnis in Abu Ghraib,” he said, “and feel more comfortable than standing in a formation of Iraqi soldiers.”

But Iraq was primarily pacified before the Status of Forces Agreement was inked.  The SOFA now places U.S. Soldiers under virtual house arrest, and right now there are a lot of frustrated U.S. troops wasting a lot of time in Iraq.  The SOFA was an extremely bad idea that makes U.S. presence largely irrelevant in Iraq.

Hamid Karzai has pressed for a SOFA for U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan, and thus far this request has been rebuffed.  But there is a dangerous precedent being set in the account above in spite of the lack of formal agreements.  The empowerment and growth of the Afghan National Army, due entirely to U.S. pressure, money and training, can have deleterious consequences on the campaign.  If the U.S. is not present and operating under the notion of sovereign power (due to the presence of enemies of state), then the campaign needs to come to a close.

Unless we wish to see the ebb of our influence in Afghanistan, no quarter can be given to rogue ANA units such as this one, no matter how much the administration wishes to withdraw from Afghanistan.  This ANA unit ought to have been immediately disarmed and disbanded upon learning that they had threatened even a dog belonging to the U.S., much less the lives of Soldiers.  Culture notwithstanding, there is absolutely no excuse for threats, and this ANA unit should have become an example to other units.

As for Company C, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, they should have been given the latitude to make such decisions, and if not latitude that was given, then it should have been taken.  No commanding officer is worth his pay and respect who risks the lives of his men around troops who won’t fight alongside them, much less troops who will fight against them.  There is simply no excuse for this ANA unit or the U.S. troops suffering their bluster and threats.

Finally, I strongly suspect that this ANA unit is full of cowards who would not only treacherously undercut the U.S. forces, but run when confronted by Taliban fighters.  If they won’t search homes for ordnance, then they won’t face down fighters shooting at them.  They are full of treachery and bluster, but essentially worthless to either the campaign or the future of Afghanistan.  Such are the men we are arming in Afghanistan to take our place.

Concerning an Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 1 month ago

We have previously dealt with the apparent desire for an Afghanistan SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) on par with the Iraq SOFA.  Bad idea, said we.  It has made U.S. forces in Iraq virtually impotent to conduct missions, even when their own force protection is involved.

U.S. officials told the Post there have been numerous disagreements between the two forces. The newspaper reported one clash in which a U.S. unit wanted and failed to get permission to send out a patrol to trap insurgents allegedly planning a mortar attack on a U.S. base from an adjacent Iraqi neighborhood named Amiriyah. “I understand you have your orders,” the Iraqi commander told the American commander, “but I have my orders, too. You are not allowed to go inside of Amiriyah.” Iraqi soldiers have blocked American convoys, U.S. officials said.

The campaign in Iraq is at a more advanced stage than in Afghanistan, and a SOFA for Afghanistan would have literally disastrous consequences for the campaign.  A recent Congressional Research Service Report details considerations and history for both the SOFA in Iraq and “agreements” thus far in Afghanistan.  For Afghanistan, the SOFA Study notes (lengthy quote):

An agreement exists regarding the status of military and civilian personnel of the U.S. Department of Defense present in Afghanistan in connection with cooperative efforts in response to terrorism, humanitarian and civic assistance, military training and exercises, and other activities. Such personnel are to be accorded “a status equivalent to that accorded to the administrative and technical staff” of the U.S. Embassy under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.  Accordingly, U.S. personnel are immune from criminal prosecution by Afghan authorities, and are immune from civil and administrative jurisdiction except with respect to acts performed outside the course of their duties. In the agreement, the Islamic Transitional Government of Afghanistan (ITGA) explicitly authorized the U.S. government to exercise criminal jurisdiction over U.S. personnel, and the Government of Afghanistan is not permitted to surrender U.S. personnel to the custody of another State, international tribunal, or any other entity without consent of the U.S. government. Although the agreement was signed by the ITGA, the subsequently elected Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan assumed responsibility for ITGA’s legal obligations and the agreement remains in force. The agreement does not appear to provide immunity for contract personnel.

The agreement with Afghanistan does not expressly authorize the United States to carry out military operations within Afghanistan, but it recognizes that such operations are “ongoing.”  Congress authorized the use of military force there (and elsewhere) by joint resolution in 2001, for targeting “those nations, organizations, or persons [who] planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001…. ” The U.N. Security Council implicitly recognized that the use of force was appropriate in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and subsequently authorized the deployment of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to Afghanistan. Subsequent U.N. Security Council resolutions provide a continuing mandate for ISAF , calling upon it to “work in close consultation with” Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF—the U.S.-led coalition conducting military operations in Afghanistan) in carrying out the mandate. While there is no explicit U.N. mandate authorizing the OEF,
Security Council resolutions appear to provide ample recognition of the legitimacy of its operations, most recently by calling upon the Afghan Government, “with the assistance of the international community, including the International Security Assistance Force and Operation Enduring Freedom coalition, in accordance with their respective designated responsibilities as they evolve, to continue to address the threat to the security and stability of Afghanistan posed by the Taliban, Al-Qaida, other extremist groups and criminal activities…. ”

In 2004, the United States and Afghanistan entered an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, with annexes. An acquisition and cross-servicing agreement (ACSA) is an agreement providing logistic support, supplies, and services to foreign militaries on a cash-reimbursement, replacement-in-kind, or exchange of equal value basis. After consultation with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense is authorized to enter into an ACSA with a government of a NATO country, a subsidiary body of NATO, or the United Nations Organization or any regional international organization of which the United States is a member. Additionally, the Secretary of Defense may enter into an ACSA with a country not included in the above categories, if, after consultation with the Secretary of State, a determination is made that it is in the best interests of the national security of the United States. If the country is not a member of NATO, the Secretary of Defense must submit notice, at least 30 days prior to designation, to the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives.

On May 23, 2005, President Hamid Karzai and President Bush issued a “joint declaration” outlining a prospective future agreement between the two countries. It envisions a role for U.S. military troops in Afghanistan to “help organize, train, equip, and sustain Afghan security forces” until Afghanistan has developed its own capacity, and to “consult with respect to taking appropriate measures in the event that Afghanistan perceives that its territorial integrity, independence, or security is threatened or at risk.” The declaration does not mention the status of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, but if an agreement is concluded pursuant to the declaration, it can be expected a status of forces agreement would be included. In August 2008, shortly after U.S. airstrikes apparently resulted in civilian casualties, President Karzai called for a review of the presence of all foreign forces in Afghanistan and the conclusion of formal SOFAs with the respective countries. However, to date, it appears that formal negotiations have yet to begin between the United States and Afghanistan.

The lack of restrictive framework for our engagement in Afghanistan suits The Captain’s Journal just fine.  But Hamid Karzai keeps pressing for such an agreement with the U.S.

The language is veiled and cloaked, but it’s there.  Karzai wants a SOFA.  It is imperative that the U.S. reject such a notion outright, no matter what stage of the campaign the current administration wishes we were in or what stage they believe exists.  Again, an agreement would effectively mean the end of the campaign as we know it.

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Iraqi Commanders Move to Restrict U.S. Troops Under SOFA

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 1 month ago

Report:

The Iraqi government has moved to sharply restrict the movement and activities of U.S. forces in a new reading of a six-month-old U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that has startled American commanders and raised concerns about the safety of their troops.

In a curt missive issued by the Baghdad Operations Command on July 2 — the day after Iraqis celebrated the withdrawal of U.S. troops to bases outside city centers — Iraq’s top commanders told their U.S. counterparts to “stop all joint patrols” in Baghdad. It said U.S. resupply convoys could travel only at night and ordered the Americans to “notify us immediately of any violations of the agreement.”

The strict application of the agreement coincides with what U.S. military officials in Washington say has been an escalation of attacks against their forces by Iranian-backed Shiite extremist groups, to which they have been unable to fully respond.

If extremists realize “some of the limitations that we have, that’s a vulnerability they could use against us,” a senior U.S. military intelligence official said. “The fact is that some of these are very politically sensitive targets” thought to be close to the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The new guidelines are a reflection of rising tensions between the two governments. Iraqi leaders increasingly see the agreement as an opportunity to show their citizens that they are now unequivocally in charge and that their dependence on the U.S. military is minimal and waning.

The June 30 deadline for moving U.S. troops out of Iraqi towns and cities was the first of three milestones under the agreement. The U.S. military is to decrease its troop levels from 130,000 to 50,000 by August of next year.

U.S. commanders have described the pullout from cities as a transition from combat to stability operations. But they have kept several combat battalions assigned to urban areas and hoped those troops would remain deeply engaged in training Iraqi security forces, meeting with paid informants, attending local council meetings and supervising U.S.-funded civic and reconstruction projects.

The Americans have been taken aback by the new restrictions on their activities. The Iraqi order runs “contrary to the spirit and practice of our last several months of operations,” Maj. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, commander of the Baghdad division, wrote in an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post.

“Maybe something was ‘lost in translation,’ ” Bolger wrote. “We are not going to hide our support role in the city. I’m sorry the Iraqi politicians lied/dissembled/spun, but we are not invisible nor should we be.” He said U.S. troops intend to engage in combat operations in urban areas to avert or respond to threats, with or without help from the Iraqis.

“This is a broad right and it demands that we patrol, raid and secure routes as necessary to keep our forces safe,” he wrote. “We’ll do that, preferably partnered.”

U.S. commanders have not publicly described in detail how they interpret the agreement’s vaguely worded provision that gives them the right to self-defense. The issue has bedeviled them because commanders are concerned that responding quickly and forcefully to threats could embarrass the Iraqi government and prompt allegations of agreement violations.

A spate of high-casualty suicide bombings in Shiite neighborhoods, attributed to al-Qaeda in Iraq and related Sunni insurgent groups, has overshadowed the increase of attacks by Iran-backed Shiite extremists, U.S. official say.

Officials agreed to discuss relations with the Iraqi government and military, and Iranian support for the extremists, only on the condition of anonymity because those issues involve security, diplomacy and intelligence.

The three primary groups — Asaib al-Haq, Khataib Hezbollah and the Promised Day Brigades — emerged from the “special groups” of the Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) militia of radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which terrorized Baghdad and southern Iraq beginning in 2006. All receive training, funding and direction from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force.

“One of the things we still have to find out, as we pull out from the cities, is how much effectiveness we’re going to have against some of these particular target sets,” the military intelligence official said. “That’s one of the very sensitive parts of this whole story.”

As U.S. forces tried to pursue the alleged leaders of the groups and planned missions against them, their efforts were hindered by the complicated warrant process and other Iraqi delays, officials said.

Last month, U.S. commanders acquiesced to an Iraqi government request to release one of their most high-profile detainees, Laith Khazali. He was arrested in March 2007 with his brother, Qais, who is thought to be the senior operational leader of Asaib al-Haq. The United States thinks they were responsible for the deaths of five American soldiers in Karbala that year.

Maliki has occasionally criticized interference by Shiite Iran’s Islamic government in Iraqi affairs. But he has also maintained close ties to Iran and has played down U.S. insistence that Iran is deeply involved, through the Quds Force, in training and controlling the Iraqi Shiite extremists.

U.S. intelligence has seen “no discernible increase in Tehran’s support to Shia extremists in recent months,” and the attack level is still low compared with previous years, U.S. counterterrorism official said. But senior military commanders maintained that Iran still supports the Shiite militias, and that their attacks now focus almost exclusively on U.S. forces.

After a brief lull, the attacks have continued this month, including a rocket strike on a U.S. base in Basra on Thursday night that killed three soldiers.

The acrimony that has marked the transition period has sowed resentment, according to several U.S. soldiers, who said the confidence expressed by Iraqi leaders does not match their competence.

“Our [Iraqi] partners burn our fuel, drive roads cleared by our Engineers, live in bases built with our money, operate vehicles fixed with our parts, eat food paid for by our contracts, watch our [surveillance] video feeds, serve citizens with our [funds], and benefit from our air cover,” Bolger noted in the e-mail.

A spokesman for Bolger would not say whether the U.S. military considers the Iraqi order on July 2 valid. Since it was issued, it has been amended to make a few exemptions. But the guidelines remain far more restrictive than the Americans had hoped, U.S. military officials said.

Brig. Gen. Heidi Brown, the commander overseeing the logistical aspects of the withdrawal, said Iraqi and U.S. commanders have had fruitful discussions in recent days about the issue.

“It’s been an interesting time, and I think we’ve sorted out any misunderstandings that were there initially,” she said in an interview Friday.

One U.S. military official here said both Iraqi and American leaders on the ground remain confused about the guidelines. The official said he worries that the lack of clarity could trigger stalemates and confrontations between Iraqis and Americans.

“We still lack a common understanding and way forward at all levels regarding those types of situations,” he said, referring to self-defense protocols and the type of missions that Americans cannot conduct unilaterally.

In recent days, he said, senior U.S. commanders have lowered their expectations.

“I think our commanders are starting to back off the notion that we will continue to execute combined operations whether the Iraqi army welcomes us with open arms or not,” the U.S. commander said. “However, we are still very interested in and concerned about our ability to quickly and effectively act in response to terrorist threats” against U.S. forces.

Analysis & Commentary

The General said “Our [Iraqi] partners burn our fuel, drive roads cleared by our Engineers, live in bases built with our money, operate vehicles fixed with our parts, eat food paid for by our contracts, watch our [surveillance] video feeds, serve citizens with our [funds], and benefit from our air cover.”  Very well.  Then don’t clear the roads, provide them with air cover, supply them logistics, or give them vehicle parts.  It’s time for daddy to take away the car keys and see just how far junior thinks he can get without his old man’s money and stuff.

Seriously though.  This is both remarkable and dangerous.  A short review shows that The Captain’s Journal was dead set against the Iraqi-U.S. SOFA in any form and under any construction.  The SOFA already prohibits any kind of military operations against any of Iraq’s neighbors, even if the neighbors are guilty of supplying weapons and fighters to undermine the Iraqi government.  This isn’t surprising, given that Maliki sought Iran’s approval of the SOFA.

We also warned that the SOFA would make for reduced security for U.S. troops, and we were right.  The notion that the U.S. would be restricted to logistical operations only during certain hours is outrageous, and a manifest increase in risk to the force.  When the fundamentals of force protection are being targeted by Iraq, it has come time for some hard lessons.

Lesson #1: The stupid desire for “legitimacy” on the world stage created the situation in which we were seeking the approval of both Iraq and the U.N. for our continued presence in Iraq.  The mistake was in ever agreeing to a SOFA to begin with.  Too much national treasure (in blood and wealth) has been invested to allow Iraqi politicians to determine the disposition of U.S. forces in Iraq.  History has taught us the lesson that we cannot even fully trust U.S. politicians with the safety, troop strength and mission of U.S. troops.  A fortiori, the Iraqi politicians can be trusted even less.

Lesson #2: Legal agreements are always subject to “interpretations.”  Neither agreements nor interpretations should take priority over force protection of U.S. troops and the right of self defense.  Restricted lines of logistics is by its very definition an infringement on force protection.  When such demands are made by the ISF, they must be ignored.

Lesson #3: The support for the ISF must cease.  If the ISF wants to take on any remaining insurgency on its own, we should oblige them.  The only way to ascertain whether the ISF is ready to defend the nation is to allow them to take the training wheels off.  This part of it is a good sign.  Let them tackle problems of discipline, logistics, parts and supplies, intelligence and operations management without U.S. assistance.  If they fail they will back off of their demands.  If they succeed, then it’s time to leave Iraq.

However these lessons play out, we cannot and must not allow any agreement to threaten the safety of U.S. troops.  Any commander who does that should be relieved of command.  Finally, since Hamid Karzai has made his desired for an Afghanistan-U.S. SOFA known, this should serve as a harbinger to the way we should address Afghanistan.  The U.S. should not agree to an Afghanistan SOFA, no matter what international pressure is brought to bear.


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