US seeks Broad Powers, Immunity for post-2014 Troops in Afghanistan (Lazare)

Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Wednesday that a text had been agreed on between the US and the government of President Hamid Karzai concerning a post-2014 role for US troops in the country. It still has to be approved by a Loya Jirga, a gathering of 2000 notables and clan leaders. The details of the agreement have not been released publicly and won’t be until the Loya Jirga votes. Karzai’s government had wanted to included an “apology” from the US for its “mistakes” during the occupation of Afghanistan, but Kerry maintained that Karzai never brought it up in the final talks and said firmly it was not in the text nor would an apology be forthcoming.

Sarah Lazare writes at Commondreams.org

Days before the so-called bi-lateral security agreement heads to an Afghan council of elders and political leaders for a final decision, the U.S. is attempting to force through a stipulation that would allow U.S. troops to continue raiding Afghan homes, in addition to measures giving U.S. troops and contractors immunity from Afghan law and extending U.S. military presence far beyond Obama's 2014 pullout date.

"If you reduce the amount of occupation forces but keep them there forever, then the occupation continues and the war on people's everyday lives is not actually over — no matter what the US government or mainstream media tells us." –Kimber Heinz, WRL

Critics charge that the U.S. is giving itself the green light for open-ended occupation at the expense of the Afghan people. "Occupation is not defined by how many occupiers are policing someplace," said Kimber Heinz of the War Resisters League in an interview with Common Dreams. "If you reduce the amount of occupation forces but keep them there forever, then the occupation continues and the war on people's everyday lives is not actually over — no matter what the US government or mainstream media tells us."

The U.S. is pushing for the right to enter Afghan homes over the initial objection of Afghan negotiators. The New York Times reports that President Hamid Karzai's spokesperson, Aimal Faizi, announced Tuesday that Karzai would allow U.S. home raids in "extraordinary circumstances." He said this was in exchange for an agreement from President Obama to issue a letter apologizing for mistakes in Afghanistan.

This latest development follows attempts on the part of U.S. negotiators to ram through immunity for U.S. troops and independent contractors from Afghan law. According to The Washington Post, the U.S. appears to have succeeded in including this immunity in a previously-circulated draft of the agreement.

The accord will head on Thursday to Afghanistan's loya jirga, a gathering of 3,000 elders and political leaders who will spend days deliberating over whether to accept the agreement. An Afghan official told The New York Times that Karzai is willing to try to convince the loya jirga to accept this immunity.

The issue of immunity for U.S. troops has long been a point of contention for the Afghan people, who have faced a staggering civilian death toll, as well as a spate of high-profile massacres, including the 2012 Panjwai massacre, in which 16 Afghan civilians were gunned down and killed, and 6 wounded by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. "Immunity is just another extension of occupation," Suraia Sahar of Afghans United for Justice previously told Common Dreams.

A draft text of the agreement dated July 25th, 2013, does not specify how many U.S. troops will be allowed to remain in Afghanistan, likely giving the U.S. unilateral power to determine this number. Furthermore, the document does not prohibit the U.S. from using Afghan territory to launch drone strikes against nearby Pakistan, The Washington Post points out.

The U.S. has framed the raids and continued troop presence as part of an ongoing special operations force to hunt down "terrorist" cells. “The Parties acknowledge that continued US military operations to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate and agree to continue their close cooperation and coordination toward that end,” the July 25th draft agreement states.

Yet critics charge that this is just occupation by another name. "The 'counter-insurgency' and paramilitary tactics employed in Afghanistan that require fewer ground forces are also being developed for use by armed forces and militarized police units all over the world, including in the U.S., making resistance to the U.S.'s latest strategy for global dominance imperative," said Heinz.

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Mirrored from Commondreams.org

Posted in Afghanistan | 33 Responses | Print |

33 Responses

  1. its a question of sovereignty.
    Either A’stan is a nation or it is a colony.
    It can’t be both.

  2. From a legal perspective the situation is this: a belligerent occupation begins when an army of occupation establishes its “authority” over a territory.

    And there is no question – none whatsoever – that the US Army established its authority over Afghanistan post-9/11.

    So the only real question is whether (or not) the SOFA amounts to the US Army (i.e. the “occupying power”) relinquishing its authority over this territory.

    The proposed SOFA says that US troops (and its mercenaries) are not answerable to Afghani civil authority.

    Or, put another way: the Afghani government CAN’T tell those US Forces to cease and desist from storming into houses and taking people into custody.

    That means that the Afghani government DOESN’T have “authority” over those US troops, while those troops will continue to have “authority” over Afghani civilians, all of whom they can arrest for whatever reason takes their fancy.

    Occupation, plain as day.

    • What are we supposed to make of “SOFA”? And why are ambiguous abbreviations being thrown around without initially spelling them out?

      • For anyone else who couldn’t make it out, apparently it means “Status of Forces Agreement”

      • Status of Forces Agreement – an agreement between the United States and another national government about the conditions of stationing American forces in that country.

  3. President Hamid Karzai and the scheduled Loya Jirga are in the driver’s seat here. If they are convinced that the security situation in Afghanistan requires the continued presence of troops, they can approve the agreement. If they think the stipulation that US troops be allowed to enter Afghan homes and the clause granting US troops immunity from Afghan law is too onerous, they can reject it. No one is forcing them to agree. It is their decision to make.

    The clause granting US troops immunity from Afghan law is nothing special. Status-of-Forces agreements have been in effect in most places where US troops have been stationed: Germany, France, Japan, Korea, and any number of other places. These Status-of-Forces agreements always include a section granting US troops immunity from local laws, unless the US Government waives it. Instead, the US treats any violations of local law under US law and the Uniform Code of military Justice (UCMJ).

    • President Hamid Karzai and the scheduled Loya Jirga are in the driver’s seat here. If they are convinced that the security situation in Afghanistan requires the continued presence of troops, they can approve the agreement.

      Yes, I wonder what the threat by which the US is attempting to “force through” the SOFA is.

      It seems to me that the “…or else…” clause here is “…or we won’t keep troops in the country past 2014,” which throws a bit of a wrench into “imperialist occupation” narrative. If that really is a threat that could make Karzai and the LG cave, then we’re not talking about a hostile foreign presence imposed against the national will. If it’s not, then what kind of imperialist occupier packs up and goes home because the occupied won’t sign a piece of paper?

      • “It seems to me that the “…or else…” clause here is “…or we won’t keep troops in the country past 2014,” which throws a bit of a wrench into “imperialist occupation” narrative.”

        You responded to my comment with the above-cited quote, Joe, and I think we are in agreement. You challenge the notion that the United States is presenting Karzai and the Afghans with the “fait accompli” of “occupation,” and so do I in my comment suggesting it is the Afghan’s choice to make. Just to clarify, I hope you are directing your comment at others’ posts and not to mine.

        Cheers,

        Bill

  4. Does the draft text mention any approximation of how much money we will be poring into that folly each year?

  5. I’d argue that Afghanistan faces four major problems (besides the four obvious ones – corruption, drug production, proliferation of warlords and terrorism):

    1. Ethnic conflict amongst the non-Pashtun majority (ethnic quarrels occur amongst the non-Pashtuns too) and Pashtun minority (Pashtuns are resented by other ethnic groups for their dominance of government and for trying to impose Pashtun customs).

    2. Durand line dispute between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    3. Pakistan’s pursuit of strategic depth in Afghanistan.

    4. Its geography (it’s the countries curse to be a battleground for competing powers for centuries).

    But assuming the BSA is granted approval, I foresee two scenarios:

    1. The insurgency continues and the Afghans bear the brunt of fighting. Whilst the US can’t guarantee victory to the Afghans, it can deny a victory to the Taliban. The goal is to convince the Taliban that the continuing costs of the war outweigh any potential gains. Only then will the Taliban seek a negotiated settlement.

    2. Pakistan will become impatient with the blowback of supporting the Taliban and therefore force the Taliban into negotiation.


    • RD Sultan,
      thanks for that comment.
      It has helped me clarify what I think about the situation.

      I was first struck by your assertion that the Pashtuns are a minority in Afghanistan. The name “Afghan” initially referred specifically to the Pashtuns, I believe.
      In order to divide and conquer the region, the Brits split Afghan country into two parts, taking one for the colony India. That part torn from A’stan (in the minds of the colonial masters) we now call what ? Khyber Paktunkhwa ?
      By that calculus, Pashtuns are indeed a plurality.

      Then you acknowledge the foreign provenance of the border.

      Then you march on to conclusions as if the US-appointed vichy government represents the interests of the Afghan people.
      What about the consent of the governed ?
      What about international mores that prohibit an occupying power imposing a vichy regime ?

      a lot to ponder.

      ———–

      As for the US,
      a brutal foreign occupation power to the Pashtuns,
      and a crucial sponsor to the vichy Northern Alliance
      (don’t let the Popalzai pimp at the top fool you,)
      by what natural or other law do our oligarchs get to decide who rules, or governs, the Pashtuns ?

      note that, if the Pashtuns’ choice is subjugation under US forces, on the one hand,
      or subjugation under the Tadjiks of the Northern Alliance, on the other,
      forgive those Pashtun bumpkins if they can’t see the difference.
      As long as that is the choice the US offer, the Taliban has alraedy won.

      The US can’t deny a victory to the folks they handed it to. does not compute.

      .

      • “In order to divide and conquer the region, the Brits split Afghan country into two parts, taking one for the colony India. That part torn from A’stan (in the minds of the colonial masters) we now call what ? Khyber Paktunkhwa?”

        The British had nothing to do with splitting what they termed the Northwest Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) from Afghanistan. From the 18th century until the early 19th, the region was part of the Afghan Durrani kingdom. In the 1820s, the Sikh Ruler Ranjit Singh, taking advantage of internal Afghan chaos, took the province and annexed it to his own empire based in the Punjab.

        Khyber Paktunkhwa only came under British rule after the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1848-49. The British prevailed in that war, and the Punjab, along with its incorporated territory (now Khyber Paktunkhwa), became a part of British India. But it was Ranjit Singh who split it from Afghanistan and made it a part of his empire, not the British.

      • “I was first struck by your assertion that the Pashtuns are a minority in Afghanistan. The name “Afghan” initially referred specifically to the Pashtuns, I believe….”

        The last government census, in 1979, gave the following numbers:

        39.4% Pashtun
        33.7% Tajik, Farsiwan, and Qezelbash
        8.0% Hazara
        8.0% Uzbek
        4.1% Aimak
        3.3% Turkmen
        1.6% Baloch
        1.9% other

        According to another survey by ABC and BBC, named “Afghanistan: Where Things Stand”, the ethnic composition of the country (as of 2009) is:

        35% Pashtun
        38% Tajik
        12% Hazara
        7% Uzbek
        2% Turkmen
        1% Arabs
        1% Nuristani
        1% Baloch
        1% Aimsk

        So Pashtuns aren’t the majority in Afghanistan but are more or less equal to Tajiks. The government census being undertaken doesn’t record ethnicity (perhaps because of the risk that it will prove that Pashtuns aren’t a majority in Afghanistan).

        Yes, Afghan is a farsi word for Pashtun. Afghanistan therefore translates to “land of the Pashtuns.” The name Afghanistan is obviously not a fair representation of the other ethnic groups.

        “By that calculus, Pashtuns are indeed a plurality.”

        It is true that most Pashtuns live not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. But, a Pakistani Pashtun and an Afghan Pashtun belong to two different nations so why include Pakistani Pashtuns in a census if we want to arrive at a approximate conclusion of how many Pashtuns are in Afghanistan?

        The Pashtuns from the Khatak, Niazi, Yusufzai, and Tarin tribes are well integrated into Pakistan’s social, civil and military fabric and they have no desire of ever merging with Afghanistan.

        “Then you march on to conclusions as if the US-appointed vichy government represents the interests of the Afghan people.”

        Where exactly did I do such a thing? All I did was proffer an opinion of how the Afghan conflict might evolve in 2015. But wasn’t Karzai “democratically” elected, anyways?

        “As for the US, a brutal foreign occupation power to the Pashtuns, and a crucial sponsor to the vichy Northern Alliance (don’t let the Popalzai pimp at the top fool you,).”

        And what is your evidence that the US is a crucial sponsor to the “Northern Alliance?” Sure, we aligned ourselves with them in 2001 to get rid of the Taliban, but since then we’ve been supporting Karzai (or perhaps you have evidence proving otherwise?).

        “Note that, if the Pashtuns’ choice is subjugation under US forces, on the one hand,
        or subjugation under the Tadjiks of the Northern Alliance, on the other,
        forgive those Pashtun bumpkins if they can’t see the difference.”

        How exactly are the Pashtuns subjugated under the Tajiks? Are you saying that non-Pashtuns hold most of the key levers of power in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan? Karzai has in fact appointed Pashtun governors in the traditional Pashtun heartland.

        The non-Pashtuns have resented the Pashtun hold on power since the formation of Afghanistan in 1747 when the Pashtun tribes gradually incorporated the neighboring non-Pashtun areas in the North and West (with British aid).

        Because the Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns have no shared language, identity, culture and history, I think a decentralized Afghan society, where each ethnic community takes care of its own, is a fine remedy to the Afghan quarrel.

        But such a prospect will not bear fruit since the Pashtuns see all of Afghanistan as their homeland and the other ethnic groups as second class citizens. Quite ironic, given that the Pashtuns themselves aren’t native to the land.

  6. “Ram through!” “Force through!” You mean, “propose and try to convince the other side to agree to?”

    How does the US “force” something through a Loya Jirga?

    You sound like the Congressional GOP.


    • well, Joe, if I wanted to “cook” a confab,
      I might invite only folks I like,
      and who support me without question,
      to attend.

      If I had appointed every single government official,
      in every district of every province,
      from Ministers to dog catchers,
      as Karzai has done, backed by US bullets,
      I could present an appearance of diversity.

      Where’s the analysis of who is attending in the US press ?
      Couldn’t the “Strategic Communications Office” get something written on that topic,
      for the NYT transcriptionists to publish ?

      ____

      I might lubricate decisions with dollars.

      • You wonder, too, if there are not other “inducements to (temporary and convenient) ‘loyalty'” in play. Is there a part number for the shrink-wrapper used to brick up those millions in bribe money? “Get out of jail free” cards for the successful opium makers?

        Recall that our imperial military is so wedded to the mission du jour that they will bribe “terrorists,” or are they “insurgents” or “militants” or “fighters” in the press briefings, to both drive, and “guard,” and not to ambush, the convoy trucks delivering through “inactive areass” all that gasoline and diesel and munitions and MREs to whatever is the current Active Scene of Futility Battlespot. Milo Minderbinder LOVES this crap. And how about “Viagra for ‘backing'”, as a tactic to “reward” the warlords at the Jirga? link to telegraph.co.uk

        More context: link to pbs.org

        The CIA let Gary Schroen publish his “what I did on my Summer Vacation” essay, “First In: An Insider’s account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War On Terror in Afghanistan,” which displays not only the true “fluid” nature of Important Relationships in that territory, but the tricks and tips a CIA field officer would want to know on how to “steer” those relationships and grease them with cash, weapons, whateverittakes to do just what, again? link to cia.gov Written by J. Daniel Moore, who by subtle diction and jingo-enthusiasm could be our own Joe…

      • But these LJ members are not exactly being nominated by Barack Obama. (You can tell, because the Senate Republicans aren’t filibustering them).

        Lubricating decisions with dollars isn’t quite the same thing as forcing a decision through; it’s the stuff of ordinary negotiations.

  7. RE money: The BBC report I saw this AM, that could have come straight from one of our own media outlets, had an Afghani talking head talking with the nice Indian lady talking head, and he pointed out that a major selling point for our buddy Karzai was the “billions and billions of dollars that will continue to be poured into the Afghan [sic] economy by continued UN [UN!] presence.” Nice B-roll video of the Loya Jirga in action in that great hall built and decorated with what, US money again, all those dudes with their personal interests in their little corners of Traditional Afghanistan, and Karzai doing the Imitation Strong Man hard sell on it all. Talking heads give passing reference to little concerns about how “UN” troops bust into people’s homes and do all that other stuff, even (gasp!) a mention that “some think” this “contributes to continued terrorism,” along with the killing and raping and stealing and drugs and all that other stuff that invading and occupation armies from other empires have always done as “their due.”

    Bill says immunity of US [US!] troops from local law is “nothing special.” Ask a lot of residents of Guam and Japan and Korea and the Philippines and various central and South American and African places whether they agree. “Nothing special” for the empire, of course… actually, it’s more and more apparent that it’s more and more of that “racket,” extended into really new territory, that ol’ Smedley Butler tried to shine a little light on.

    For context, once again:

    link to latimesblogs.latimes.com

    link to japanfocus.org

    link to nola.com

    And of course if you do your own research, a lot more…

    • Sorry, “Guam” should be “Okinawa.” “We” OWN Guam, so locals there are really screwed…

    • “Bill says immunity of US [US!] troops from local law is “nothing special.” Ask a lot of residents of Guam and Japan and Korea and the Philippines and various central and South American and African places whether they agree.”

      There obviously is agreement with the Status-of-Forces Agreements between the United States and the countries where we operate, Mr. McPhee. If these countries had not agreed to the SOFAs, we would not be operating on their territory.

      • As you know, Mr. Player, the “countries” do not “agree:” various elites, with more or less legitimacy (usually less, often with “inputs” from our own imperial bureaucracies) go through the motions of ratifying those arrangements. The local yokels who have reason to expect that occupying troops abide by and be subject to local law get screwed. Seems our sainted Forefathers had some problem with occupation troops too, leading to

        “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.” link to en.wikipedia.org And one Forefather, John Adams, represented the British soldiers in COLONIAL LOCAL court against homicide charges, where the colonists had been doing the same stuff that “militant insurgents” are doing in other imperially occupied places.

        • SOFAs, as well as other and bilateral agreements, SOFAs, and international agreements, are concluded between governments of the concerned countries. That has always been, and continues to be, the case. (International Relations 101.)

        • And yet a little more context, for those who care to read up on SOFAs, those bits of furniture on which our imperial centurions often park their commodious backsides:

          link to jagcnet.army.mil

          link to fas.org

          For anyone serious about understanding SOFAs, attention to this latter link will give a more complete picture than you will get from the presumptions and presumptuous comments found here.

        • Foreign governments have the option of accepting or rejecting SOFAs, Mr. McPhee. No one is compelled to accept a SOFA.

  8. My gut feeling, what we are asking the LG to do is too onerous, and we run a high risk of it being turned down. Then it will be hard to stay without losing face and certainly legitimacy. So I think our side was too good at negotiating for its own good.


    • Omega,
      don’t worry. It’s beeen choreographed and rehearsed.

      There are no loyal, patriotic Aghans invited to the conference, who might throw a wrench in the machinery.
      Only Karzai’s posse.

      • “There are no loyal, patriotic Aghans invited to the conference, who might throw a wrench in the machinery.”

        Please describe a “loyal, patriotic Afghan,” Brian, as opposed to ethnic Pashtuns, Hazaras, Tadjiks, Turkmen, etc. who owe primary allegiance to their ethnic and tribal leaders, as opposed to a central Afghan government in Kabul. And what makes you think the members of the Loya Jirga will approve this particular measure because it has been “choreographed and rehearsed”? Did you attend the rehearsal dinner?

        Don’t you think that even this group, owing allegiance to their ethnic and tribal sub-groups, might see some value in the security the US troops provide? Or do you think Afghans lack any agency to make decisions on their own behalf. Do you consider them children, incapable of determining what they might perceive to be in their own best interest? Talk about a Western, condescending attitude toward what you seem to consider “lesser breeds,” as Kipling might have put it!

  9. lol , money buying fellow thieves, is what this is about. Iraq said no to the American immunity and the civil war has continued since we started the war there. Afghanistan. another colony may not survive either without the Empire maintaining troops there.

    question is how much money will it take to buy out the Loya Jirga. i wonder if they (LJ) are as cheap as American Congressmen. or do the Aghans love their country enough to want self determination. Money from the Empire or a return to their own “form” of corruption. lol choices, choices, choices.

    i heard it costs a million dollars to keep an American soldier stationed there. too bad they don’t spend money on us, too. you know, ordinary Ameicans, our roads,schools, bridges, infrastructure need replacing too.

  10. “The U.S. has framed the raids and continued troop presence as part of an ongoing special operations force to hunt down “terrorist” cells. “The Parties acknowledge that continued US military operations to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate and agree to continue their close cooperation and coordination toward that end,” the July 25th draft agreement states.”

    What “Bovine Excrement.” More of that Change We Should Not Have Believed In.” This is to ensure continued opportunities for war profiteers, while hapless US troops continue to die, although not at the rate that will be inflicted upon the Afghan people. If I believed in prayer I would be praying that the Loya Jirga and the Parliament are better than we are.

    • Ms. Marshall, you would need a rather large prayer circle to overcome the incantations of the persistent, dogged, dedicated, driven, indefatigable persons, private, public and corporate, that keep this mythical charade called “geopolitics” erected for their personal benefit, playing on the moral weaknesses and fears of the rest of us.

  11. Undoubtedly, I’m just being naive, but the demand that US troops be immune to prosecution for their violations of local law looks to me like a very viable exit strategy.

    The US insists upon immunity, or we’ll leave. Karzai, backed by the Loya Jurga, refuses. The US then withdraws, since it’s impossible to stay on our terms, and the decision was made by the Afghan people, democratically. A more than plausible fig leaf, I’d say.

    Alternatively, Karzai decides, possibly backed by the Loya Jurga, but maybe not, that he will surrender Afghan sovereignty in order to have the US and its money to kick around awhile longer. This could have the effect of decreasing his remaining time in office as US atrocities inevitably continue. Well, that’s the optimistic, probably unlikely point of view.

    I do like the idea of the too-comfy SOFA being a sneaky way out, though.

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