Karzai, Pakistan Protests against US Drone Strikes may force US out

Afghan President Hamid Karzai complained Friday that a US drone strike in Helmand Province targeting a Taliban commander on a motorcycle appears to have gone bad and ended up killing a 2 year old child and wounding two women instead. A second drone strike killed the commander.

Karzai said that he would not sign a Status of Forces Agreement with the US until they stopped military operations that involved invading the homes of Afghans, and hinted that the drone strikes are an issue for him too, since they demonstrate, he said, the the US does not respect the lives of non-combatants.

Karzai’s refusal to sign the SOFA may force the US to begin withdrawals and to make plans, at least, to leave completely by the end of December 2014. The withdrawal of the 75,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan is a big logistical task and can’t be left till the last minute, in case there is no SOFA in the end. If US troops tried to operate in Afghanistan without a bilateral agreement, they could be brought up in Afghan courts on war crimes charges if anything went wrong. No US commander would agree to operate under such a constant threat.

US officials were surprised and dismayed when Karzai, after a long period of negotiations with the US on this issue, abruptly announced that he wouldn’t sign the agreement hammered out between his government and the US allowing American troops to remain in Afghanistan.

The drones are also roiling relations between the US and elements in Pakistan.

On Friday morning, a US drone strike near Miranshah in Pakistan’s tribal belt killed two alleged militants.

The strike follows on one last week on Pakistan proper, killing 6 at a seminary where the Haqqani Network leadership was meeting.

Tehrik-i Insaf or Justice Party, led by Imran Khan, won the provincial government in the northern Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa Province (formerly North-West Frontier Province). Imran and his PTI have led protests against continued US drone strikes in northern Pakistan, blocking NATO supply trucks from bringing goods up from Karachi through the Khyber Pass and thence to troops in Afghanistan.

The BBC reports

The NATO truck route is a Federal matter, not a provincial one, and the PTI’s actions are viewed dimly by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad. Sharif has not, however, moved to intervene.

26 Responses

  1. Hamid Karzai has a history of erratic behavior, but he appears even more feckless and unglued as crunch time comes. The United States has SOFAs with every country where US troops are deployed, and we certainly wouldn’t operate without one in Afghanistan. If he continues on this course, Afghanistan will lose the security component the US provides with Afghan forces, and it will lose considerable economic aid as well.

    Frankly, the US would be better off withdrawing from the Afghan quagmire, as Afghanistan is nowhere near to developing into a “nation,” and we are not going to do it for them. As for the aid funding, it would just be more money following the billions already sent down the rat-hole. Just put the Afghans on notice that while “nation-building” is over, the counter-terrorism program will continue to the extent that they are unable to control anti-US Jihadists within their borders.

    • “Frankly, the US would be better off withdrawing from the Afghan quagmire…” For once, something to agree with. I might add that wisdom and the national interest might support the same notion regarding a lot of other places where US forces, of all sorts, and nominal “US”-actual-post-supra-national corporate “interests,” are busily playing the Game.

      But as to the pronouncement about the universality of SOFAs, might I offer this bit of context?

      link to digitaljournal.com

  2. Rafik Khoury

    True. But Karzai just going through the motions, functioning between constraints forced upon him by the US Military.

  3. Karzai no doubt has Dr. Najibullah, the last Communist President of Afghanistan, on his mind. When Najibullah sought the flee Afghanistan (27 months after the soviets withdrew), he was detained by militias loyal to (his former ally and Karzai’s current ally) Abdul Rashid Dostum. Najibullah had then gone into hiding in Kabul’s United Nations compound, where he was eventually executed by the Taliban when they captured Kabul.

  4. Obama’s insistence on extraterritoriality is what killed the proposed Iraq SOFA, resulting in the complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

    And now he’s insisting on that same poison pill in the Afghanistan negotiations.

    I think we know how this ends.

    • If by “extraterritoriality” you mean that United States forces will not be subject to Afghan courts should they violate Afghan law, that is standard procedure in SOFAs with countries where our troops are deployed, unless the US waives it in individual cases, which does occasionally happen. It is not a “poison pill” designed to elicit a negative response from Karzai, it is a standard clause in SOFAs worldwide.

      • It’s odd to talk about “standard procedure” when comparing things as different as basing rights in Belgium vs. keeping American troops in a country like Iraq or Afghanistan, in which a war was being fought and those fighting that government need to be worked into a political process.

        It may be quite standard and uncontroversial for extraterritoriality to be included in standard SOFAs, but as the Iraq example just demonstrated beyond any doubt, it is rather a big deal to try to include that condition under these circumstances.

        • On the contrary, in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, where there is neither established rule-of-law nor a judicial system worthy of the name, it is more important than ever that US forces not be subject to the whims and vicissitudes of local “justice.”

          And don’t forget, Karzai had approved the Security Agreement before he moved the goal posts and laid down additional conditions. It is Karzai’s erratic, feckless behavior that is leading to a “poison pill,” that could well derail the Security Agreement, not the legitimate interest of the US in including the SOFA article rendering US forces immune from Afghan legal and judicial processes. Interestingly, the Loya Jirga reached the same conclusion.

        • Do you see how you moved the goal posts? Whereas you initially claimed that including such a condition was unremarkable and not a “poison pill” that would scrap the deal, you’re now arguing instead that such a condition is a good idea (from the point of view of the American troops).

          And, no question, from the point of view of American military personnel, being immune from local law is, indeed, a very good thing.

          But that wasn’t the question. The question was whether the inclusion of that demand is a heavy lift, a condition that is unacceptable to the Afghans, and is likely to scrap a SOFA and result in the withdrawal of the troops, and that is a question that is answered not by considering the opinion of the American personnel who might or might not be stationed there, but that of the Afghan public and political leadership.

    • Joe,
      I think you might have the timeline wrong.
      The Iraq SOFA was signed by Ambassador Ryan Crocker,
      on behalf of GW Bush, on 18 November 2008,
      10 days after Obama won the popular vote,
      but well before the Electoral College even met.

      Obama was powerless to impact the “SOFA,”
      which I refer to as a “surrender agreement,”
      because in it Bush agreed to every al-Maliki demand,
      including complete withdrawal.

      Perhaps you are referring to a half-hearted effort to re-negotiate the SOFA on terms more favorable to defense contractors ? IIRC, that’s what happened on Obama’s watch,
      after the surrender agreement was executed,
      but before the withdrawal date agreed to by Prez Bush.

      Bush got the withdrawal date pushed back 3 years
      to confuse people about who “lost” the war,
      and who surrendered,
      and it appears to have worked.
      .

      • Brian,

        I was, indeed, talking about the SOFA Obama “attempted” to negotiate with Malaki, as the deadline for the Bush-negotiated SOFA approached – that is, his response to Malaki’s request to extend the troops presence, which amounted to “give American troops immunity, and then we can work on negotiating an extension.”

    • -
      speaking as a (former) US infantryman,
      how could our Army maintain an occupation
      (even if we called it something else)
      without that “extraterritoriality” clause ?

      I’m out there pushing local civilians around,
      which is what a foreign occupation force does,
      and the locals can bring me up on charges ?
      How would that work ?
      How COULD that work ?

      Respect the Army for what it is – a killing machine.
      If you don’t want American soldiers killing, raping, looting, pillaging,
      don’t send us overseas.
      ‘Cause that’s what we do in “war.”
      Sending us to do “stabilization” or “nation-building” is delusional. Only locals can do those things.
      I have proof.
      -

      • Certainly all armies have a reputation for ‘ killing, raping, looting, pillaging’ which is why strong discipline is required. Most Western countries – including those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq – are signatories to the International Criminal Court and their occupation forces and leaders could be prosecuted for war crimes if their own disciplinary procedures are inadequate or not followed.

        The US has vigorously avoided any possibility of their war criminals being judged either internationally or by the host country. Cover ups, bungled investigations and the dropping of charges show the US has no intention of holding its armed forces responsible for war crimes – unless publicity makes mass murder impossible to quietly sweep under the carpet.

        That is the reason the US left Iraq – to protect war criminals from real investigation. The fact is the US armed forces can not operate without immunity for war crimes and that sums up the nature of a US occupation.

      • Well, Brian, our army could maintain an occupation the way virtually all occupations have been maintained throughout history: without getting the locals’ endorsement of any sort of Status of Forces Agreement. It’s true that there cannot be an occupation without the troops being immune from local law. It’s also true that the United States doesn’t need to have the Afghan government’s permission to set up shop in the country, as the example of the Taliban demonstrates.

        So, we find the United States asking permission to keep troops in the country, while also insisting that the Afghans sign off on that presence and that immunity, and “threatening” not to remain the country at all if they don’t sign off.

        And we know that exactly this path was taken before, in Iraq; we know how it ended up; and we know that the Obama administration is pursuing the same path in Afghanistan.

  5. these TPI could start to block US military traffic in the other direction (retrograding equipment for the withdrawal) and really gum things up.

    Trucks headed into A’stan that are turned back at Peshawar can simply go to a parking lot and wait.
    Trucks coming up the pass who are turned back at Torkham Gate will completely clog the road. Nothing will get through.

    What the Pakistani government doesn’t have the will to stop,
    a cricket player could stop – terrorist drone strikes.

    Maybe the Air Force folks in Las Vegas will try to drone him.

    • “What the Pakistani government doesn’t have the will to stop,
      a cricket player could stop – terrorist drone strikes.”

      The Pakistani government under Nawaz Sharif will not countenance Imran Khan’s PTI stopping the US convoys for long. The US will come to an understanding with Sharif. And stopping the US convoys, in any case, certainly will not have an effect on US drone strikes. It is a pipe dream to think Imran Khan (your aptly described “cricket player”) will determine US defense policy in the region.

  6. -
    Karzai, a Durrani Popalzai Pashtun leader with tribal leadership credentials, is leading a side that is mostly the old Northern Alliance.

    Traditional Pashtun tribal leaders for the most part have been cooperating with the brutal foreign occupation as a way to protect their people,
    and the foreigners have paid them handsomely for that.

    Americans I know who are Pashtun hate that Taleban are the main political power standing up for Pashtun rights.

    Maybe the secular Khan can provide some needed leadership for the victims of the US occupation.
    -

    • “Maybe the secular Khan can provide some needed leadership for the victims of the US occupation.”

      What “victims of US occupation” are you referring to? Would it be the Loya Jirga, that assembly of some 2,000 Afghan leaders and elders from all over Afghanistan who voted to accept the US security pact, and who castigated Karzai for not signing it?

      Would it be Sebghatullah Mujadidi, the head of the Loya Jirga, who said, “Karzai doesn’t have the right to say this, he is making a mistake. They (the Americans) have accepted all the conditions set out by him and us. It would hurt Afghanistan if he does not accept it”

      Would it be Amir Mohammad Akhnudzada, a delegate from southern Helmand province,who said: “I think President Karzai should respect the decision of the Afghan elders, and all the delegates want this Bilateral Security Agreement signed as soon as possible.”

      Sure doesn’t sound like representatives of “victims of US occupation” to me.

      • Bill,
        I think you’d be fascinated to learn who got invited to participate in that Loya Jirga, and how.
        I think you’d find it interesting to learn how they all got to the venue, where they stayed, and who paid for it.

        If you think 2,500 Karzai appointees are representative of the will of the Afghan people,
        especially the Pashtun people,
        well, I respectfully disagree.

        I also disagree with the imputed, “nobody has suffered from our occupation.”
        .

        • “Bill, I think you’d be fascinated to learn who got invited to participate in that Loya Jirga, and how. I think you’d find it interesting to learn how they all got to the venue, where they stayed, and who paid for it.”

          I doubt that I would be “fascinated” or surprised at how the Loya Jirga was convened, having a fair knowledge of the history of Afghanistan over the past 47 years. Nevertheless, the implication of your comment, Brian, is that you possess knowledge about the Loya Jirga unavailable to those of us with whom you disagree.

          Please describe how delegates to the Loya Jirga were selected, how they were conveyed to the venue, and where they stayed, Brian. And so we really can have faith that you know what you are talking about, please cite your sources as evidence. As for who paid for it, we all know that the US and European aid support the Afghan economy, such as it is, so that is no revelation and is of little consequence.

          Over to you, Brian.

        • Dr. Cole,
          I understand if you don’t post this. 2 darn long.

          Bill,
          I don’t pay for NYT access, so I only get to view something like 20 pages a month. Ditto for WaPo. I don’t want to go back to the Times site and hunt around for the right article, so I can then post a link,
          but in the last day I read in an article at that site that all participants were selected to attend by Karzai.
          That’s all it said in this regard.
          But every government job in Afghanistan, right down to the dogcatcher in each of the 468 or so Districts, is appointed by Karzai or his staff. I don’t think they have dogcatchers; that’s just a figure of speech.
          It’s my understanding that everyone who attended the Council serves in a government position to which Karzai appointed them.
          I assume that the Loya Jergah was open to any official of a certain “rank” in some level of government, from District thru Provincial to National.
          I think that’s how it was constituted.

          I worked 2 years ago with several Afghan-Americans to get US government support for an experiment in economic development they called “Business Jergah to Business Jergah.” If you recognize the monicker, then you know who I collaborated with.
          In that context, Qasim was going to open participation in the Afghan end of the Council-to-Council up to pretty much anyone who wanted to play, and had something to bring to the table.
          I think the Jergah/Jirga concept is a lot more open and flexible than the Arab Shura consultative council, which is dominated by representatives of the top authorities.
          Anyways,
          you said the Loya Jirga, was an “assembly of some 2,000 Afghan leaders and elders from all over Afghanistan.”
          Correct, as far as it goes.
          But the “Afghan National Government” is a Northern Alliance project, not an all-Afghan project. Pashtuns are mostly excluded.
          I am not current on this stuff, but 2 years ago most of the Provincial Governors in Pashtun areas didn’t even speak Pashtun. I assume that if a Tadjik is appointed Governor, he’s going to have mostly Tadjiks filling out the rest of the government positions.
          Now, Provinces and Districts have Consultative Councils made up of authentic, indigenous tribal elders, but those folks aren’t official government officials. If only 2,500 attended the big national Loya Jirga, that only leaves room for 4 or 5 per District, at most. Maybe some Pashtun Elders were there. I assume there was a smattering, just like the so-called “Afghan National Army” has about 5% Pashtun soldiers.
          But I assume that the business of the Loya Jirga was conducted in Dari, because Pashto is a foreign language to most officials of the Afghan Government, at all levels.

          I “believe in” the Durand Line, because without it there will be less stability. The Pakistan government “believes in” it. The Northern Alliance-based Afghan Government “believes in” it. But for a lot of good reasons many Pashtuns do not respect it as their “national” border. Heck, it cuts right through the middle of Pashtun lands.
          If you suspend judgment for the rest of this post, and allow that the Durand Line is not the border, then Pashtuns are the clear majority in Afghanistan. The word “Afghan” originally referred just to Pashtuns.
          But the Loya Jergah was conducted in a foreign language, and included only a smattering of ethnic Pashtuns.

          Who knows if I’m even 25% right ?
          But if I AM 25% right,
          Then that Loya Jergah was not the representative assembly you seem to think it was.
          It was yet another attempt by the foreign occupation force to deny the Pashtuns any self-governance.
          Seemingly because we cannot distinguish “Pashtun” from “Taliban.”
          God bless you, brother.

        • Re Bill’s challenge, here is one little piece of context:

          This last day of the jirga was all very strange. The ‘representatives’ of a nation of millions could not have come to such near identical conclusions as they did without behind-the-scenes organisation. How that was done was reasonably clear: the delegates were largely hand-picked and the jirga facilitators mainly came from or were organised by the Office of Administrative Affairs run by Sadeq Mudaber who was also head of the jirga secretariat and is a close Karzai ally. The pro-BSA advisor to the president on national security, former foreign minister, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, and his people were also there to answer “technical questions”. Several delegates told AAN that provincial governors, who were among the delegates, had played their ‘traditional’ role in such gatherings as government enforcers.

          link to afghanistan-analysts.org

          One can read the whole article and step back through the links, or wait for Last-Word Bill to tell us what it actually said…

          Maybe Brian can’t tell us because, like the excuses given for official secrecy, to do so would reveal sources, methods and actions that risk “security.”

  7. -
    I expect the US military already has well-developed plans for both scenarios, and several in between the extremes.

    Mostly people on military headquaters staffs sit around with nothing to do. Staffs are sized to handle crises, and when not in crisis mode, they have plenty of time to figure out what to do in case, for example, the Torkham Gate is slammed shut.

    The threat on the table seems to be:
    “Either bow to our demands right now, or we just might start planning for the scenario where we pull out completely.”
    But they’ve already done what they threaten to do, and in great detail.
    This is silly.

    For withdrawal of all troops by December 2014, most can be done on existing contracts.
    The few contracts that need to be awarded or modified, depending on whether we leave a large (7,000 to 15,000) force behind or not, can wait until July.
    .

  8. United States of America needs to realize the fact that they are murdering innocent civilians and are helping the terrorists to increase the number of their recruits.Drone attacks have created immense hatred against Washington in the Muslim World.NATO troops have failed to find a legitimate way of dismantling terrorist networks.They came to rescue this part of the world from terrorists as ultimate protectors and heroes.Now it is the time for them to behave and leave like HEROES instead of further sowing the seeds of HATRED.

  9. The US not only threatened–it vowed–to leave if an honest Afghan election was not held, after the one which elected Karzai was found untrustworthy (by neutral observors, not the US.)
    The election was never held but the US stayed anyway, and surged to further quagmire.
    Let’s hope the ultimate title of this will be something like
    “Follies of a Retreating Empire.”

  10. Brian: I agree with you in that any US soldier in Afghanistan has to be baffled what the mission is. Karzai has always been treated as a total puppet by the US while we tried one useless military/political strategy after another. I don’t think Karzai ever supported any of them and I think he was right not to.
    Getting the US out of Afghanistan and Pakistan as well may be the next good step for them to take. Iran is more important to Afghanistan’s future than we are.

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