Zero-option in Afghanistan called off?

posted at 2:01 pm on March 3, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Hamid Karzai wants Americans to know that he’s not opposed to American assistance, as long as it’s assistance. The outgoing president of Afghanistan refused to sign off on the bilateral security agreement that would keep residual American forces in Afghanistan indefinitely, which forced the Obama administration to start considering a “zero-option” plan for a full withdrawal. Karzai tells the Washington Post that he doesn’t want the US and NATO to abandon Afghanistan, but he wants the military support to go after Taliban strongholds in Pakistan — and pitching a tantrum was the only way to get the attention of Americans:

In an unusually emotional interview, the departing Afghan president sought to explain why he has been such a harsh critic of the 12-year-old U.S. war effort here. He said he’s deeply troubled by all the casualties he has seen, including those in U.S. military operations. He feels betrayed by what he calls an insufficient U.S. focus on targeting Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. And he insists that public criticism was the only way to guarantee an American response to his concerns.

To Karzai, the war was not waged with his country’s interests in mind.

“Afghans died in a war that’s not ours,’ he said in the interview, his first in two years with a U.S. newspaper.

In Karzai’s mind, al-Qaeda is “more a myth than a reality” and the majority of the United States’ prisoners here were innocent. He’s certain that the war was “for the U.S. security and for the Western interest.”

Such statements elicit scorn and shock from U.S. officials, who point out that Americans have sacrificed mightily for Afghanistan — losing more than 2,000 lives and spending more than $600 billion in the effort to defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban and rebuild the country.

The problem in Pakistan is the government, which wants to eventually make peace with its frontier provinces. American bombardment of Taliban leadership by drone warfare created a huge political problem for the elected government, which forced the US to scale back its efforts across the border (at least publicly). Instead of going after the sources of Taliban strength, NATO forces had to focus more on attacking them in Afghanistan, which transferred the “collateral damage” from Pakistan to Afghanistan — and created a political nightmare there.

Karzai doesn’t oppose the BSA per se, but he wants nothing to do with it. In a little-noticed development, the US finally backed down and agreed to wait for his successor after elections this spring:

But in a phone call with Karzai last week, President Obama said he will accept having the winner of Afghanistan’s April presidential elections sign the pact. Karzai indicated that he views that as a best-case scenario. He won’t have to submit to U.S. demands — such as the continuation of counter­terrorism operations — but the popular security agreement will probably still be finalized.

“It’s good for them to sign it with my successor,” the Afghan leader said.

On the security agreement, as with several other issues, Karzai’s antagonistic approach seems to have succeeded, in the sense that he has forced U.S. officials to move deadlines — and even to reshape policy.

In essence, he played chicken with the Obama administration, and ended up winning. The zero option appears to be off the table again, at least in the Post’s reading of a Tuesday phone call between Karzai and Obama. Here’s what the White House had to say about it, emphasis mine:

With regard to the Bilateral Security Agreement, in advance of the NATO Defense Ministerial, President Obama told President Karzai that because he has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the BSA, the United States is moving forward with additional contingency planning. Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014. At the same time, should we have a BSA and a willing and committed partner in the Afghan government, a limited post-2014 mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and going after the remnants of core Al Qaeda could be in the interests of the United States and Afghanistan. Therefore, we will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA with Afghanistan later this year.  However, the longer we go without a BSA, the more challenging it will be to plan and execute any U.S. mission. Furthermore, the longer we go without a BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition.

I’m not entirely sure I read this as a complete retreat on the zero option itself, but it’s the end of using it as an active threat against Karzai. The White House appears to have conceded that Karzai can’t be moved, and the warnings to conclude something soon are aimed at whoever follows Karzai into leadership. It looks like Karzai’s tantrums worked at least to that extent.

Of course, the entire debate over the BSA may end up being mooted by Russia’s invasion of Crimea and the escalating sanctions the West places on Moscow. Expect Putin to retaliate by threatening our supply lines into the Af-Pak theater, which may mean a full withdrawal anyway regardless of what the Afghanistan people want.

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By Zero

Schadenfreude on March 3, 2014 at 2:01 PM

Karzai s/b captured and executed, unless he takes off with the US billions, for Dubai, right before the Taliban retakes Afghanistan.

He and his brother would no longer have anything to say…but the NYTs blew the cover.

Schadenfreude on March 3, 2014 at 2:02 PM

A red line.

rogerb on March 3, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Why are we sending Boy Scouts to Afghanistan?….

dentarthurdent on March 3, 2014 at 2:04 PM

he played chicken with the Obama administration, and ended up winning.

No!!! I’m shocked!

Dingbat63 on March 3, 2014 at 2:06 PM

“Afghans died in a war that’s not ours,’ he said in the interview, his first in two years with a U.S. newspaper.

In Karzai’s mind, al-Qaeda is “more a myth than a reality” and the majority of the United States’ prisoners here were innocent.

Thousands of innocent Americans died on 9/11 because Afghans allowed AQ to infest their country and use it as a terrorist training ground. AQ is no more of a “myth” than the thousands of Americans who died in the AQ attack on 9/11, or the thousands of American service men and women who have died in that shit-hole of a country since 9/11.

It’s your damn war alright Karzai, and you made it ours too. It’s just too damn bad we didn’t finish the job the way we should have — which would have rid your sad little country not only of AQ, but of cowardly, corrupt, and duplicitous AQ enablers like you Karzai.

AZCoyote on March 3, 2014 at 2:09 PM

Karzai isn’t an ally and there isn’t an Afghan nation to defend or rebuild. There is a collection of tribes and cities of varying ethnic Muslim groups who despise the infidel.

There isn’t anything to fight for, or defend in that place that a mass bombing raid couldn’t accomplish with far less cost.

sharrukin on March 3, 2014 at 2:12 PM

It’s your damn war alright Karzai, and you made it ours too. It’s just too damn bad we didn’t finish the job the way we should have — which would have rid your sad little country not only of AQ, but of cowardly, corrupt, and duplicitous AQ enablers like you Karzai.

AZCoyote on March 3, 2014 at 2:09 PM

What you said!

sandee on March 3, 2014 at 2:13 PM

In essence, he played chicken placed a sure bet with against the Obama administration, and ended up winning.

antipc on March 3, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Therefore, we will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA with Afghanistan later this year until Obambie can par the back nine.

Tsar of Earth on March 3, 2014 at 2:15 PM

tactical nukes solve many problems.

dmacleo on March 3, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Another foreign policy misjudged by Obama and the left. Will it ever end?

plutorocks on March 3, 2014 at 2:22 PM

In essence, he played chicken with the Obama administration, and ended up winning.

As does… everyone?

Obama doesn’t play hardball unless you’re a conservative, a US taxpayer, Republican, etc.

Midas on March 3, 2014 at 2:26 PM

In essence, he played chicken with the Obama administration, and ended up winning.

That seems to be a theme with this regime, unless it’s Republicans.

rbj on March 3, 2014 at 2:27 PM

Expect Putin to retaliate by threatening our supply lines into the Af-Pak theater, which may mean a full withdrawal anyway regardless of what the Afghanistan people want.

WTF cares what the Afghans want! Are we their servants? Putin would be doing America, and it’s Army, a favor if he helped to cause a full American withdrawal from Afcrapistan. Most Americans do not want to throw more American lives and limbs and billions down that muslim crap hole.

VorDaj on March 3, 2014 at 2:27 PM

In essence, he played chicken with the Obama administration, and ended up winning.

A damn chicken would win that!

ladyingray on March 3, 2014 at 2:29 PM

I’ve never been closer to the camp of “nuke the entire site from orbit – it’s the only way to be sure” than I am today.

Midas on March 3, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Another foreign policy misjudged by Obama and the left. Will it ever end?

plutorocks on March 3, 2014 at 2:22 PM

nah.

Apparently Obama has p*ssed off the Chinese now for refusing to call the recent Kunming attacks a terrorist attack.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1439338/chinese-netizens-slam-us-refusing-call-kunming-attack-terrorist-act

Being a Texan (Ft. Hood Workplace Violence) I can see why they’re p*ssed off.

workingclass artist on March 3, 2014 at 2:31 PM

On the security agreement, as with several other issues, Karzai’s antagonistic approach seems to have succeeded, in the sense that he has forced U.S. officials to move deadlines — and even to reshape policy.

Another day, another government realizing that what we have from the White House are words, just words…nothing more to them than that.

CPRforAmerica on March 3, 2014 at 2:33 PM

In the photo. Karzai is telling Obama,

“Now you listen here DumbSh*t”

ToddPA on March 3, 2014 at 2:36 PM

Played him like a fiddle

Yet the lsm will praise Obama for his awesome diplomacy

cmsinaz on March 3, 2014 at 2:36 PM

Midas don’t forget Bibi

cmsinaz on March 3, 2014 at 2:42 PM

So a reportedly looney third-world corruptocrat whose country is occupied and who has virtually no military power slaps Obama around on the world stage, and by extension, the US.

Obama and his gang of Leftist tools are unquestionably the most ignorant and incompetent crew ever to steer US foreign policy. Worse still, Obama has repeatedly subverted foreign policy to his domestic political agenda. The results: Empty threats, pointless gestures, blood spilled in vain, treasure squandered, failure after failure and general incoherency.

I have no doubt Obama fully intended to reduce America’s power and influence on the world stage, considering them to be, as he does, powerful forces of evil in the world. He just meant that reduction to be according to his plans, the fruits of the brilliant leadership of the savior of the world, not the disastrous consequences of his blundering and posturing, his ideological idiocy and his fundamental incompetency.

novaculus on March 3, 2014 at 2:48 PM

and pitching a tantrum was the only way to get the attention of Americans

…it works…for JugEars!

KOOLAID2 on March 3, 2014 at 2:50 PM

Karzai wants it both ways. He wants NATO to stay, but with a sinecure on his part. He also wants NATO to go to war with his traditional enemy, Pakistan and, oh, btw, keep the blank checks coming, his Swiss bank accounts are getting low. Needed response: GTFO.

vnvet on March 3, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Karzai wants it both ways. He wants NATO to stay, but with a sinecure on his part. He also wants NATO to go to war with his traditional enemy, Pakistan and, oh, btw, keep the blank checks coming, his Swiss bank accounts are getting low. Needed response: GTFO.

vnvet on March 3, 2014 at 2:52 PM

He was never going to not have US troops there. They are the only thing standing between him being the head of state and his being beheaded…

ConstantineXI on March 3, 2014 at 3:03 PM

tactical nukes solve many problems.

dmacleo on March 3, 2014 at 2:21 PM

That’s what we should have done in the first place.

The last sneak attack on US soil ended in two nuclear bombs being dropped. Same should have happened for 9/11.

ConstantineXI on March 3, 2014 at 3:04 PM

Shorter Karzai: We’ll take your jizzya. As far as anything else, piss off.

ElectricPhase on March 3, 2014 at 3:12 PM

Just we’ve just eliminated Russia as a way out, my only fear is Obama is going to piss off Pakistan again and leave us no way to get our stuff out.

lowandslow on March 3, 2014 at 3:13 PM

Odd that Obama needed a SOFA agreement NOW! Yet can dither on a pipeline approval FOR YEARS.

GarandFan on March 3, 2014 at 3:24 PM

He was never going to not have US troops there. They are the only thing standing between him being the head of state and his being beheaded…

ConstantineXI on March 3, 2014 at 3:03 PM

Yep. The Taliban already has a crane rented with Karzai’s name on it.

slickwillie2001 on March 3, 2014 at 3:27 PM

My father (74 years young) said that many world leaders are about to come out of the shadows and help us impeach Al SharptonObama.

Nothing can shock me now.

Key West Reader on March 3, 2014 at 3:32 PM

Just get the heck out of there, Karzai will be strung up in about a week. Obama is feckless, getting played by a two bit hustler.

major dad on March 3, 2014 at 3:42 PM

“In Karzai’s mind, al-Qaeda is “more a myth than a reality” and the majority of the United States’ prisoners here were innocent. ” – So that is where Obama got the idea that Al Qaeda was not to be feared. Glad to know he had such a good intelligence source.

evie1949 on March 3, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Bribes paid and accepted.

albill on March 3, 2014 at 3:50 PM

the departing Afghan president

Yep, he’ll be departing all right… from either the country, or from life.

What are the chances that an agreement is finalized, and his successor just refuses to sign it?

Marcola on March 3, 2014 at 3:53 PM

NATO and America are the Afghan economy and a big chunk of Pakistans too. Leaving and leaving nothing is as good as nuking them.

BL@KBIRD on March 3, 2014 at 5:31 PM

{Karzai}…doesn’t want the US and NATO to abandon Afghanistan, but he wants the military support to go after Taliban strongholds in Pakistan — and pitching a tantrum was the only way to get the attention of Americans

Inept Obama foreign policy makes a another misstep (‘not paying attention’) and is forced to again back-peddle?

Sheesh, amateurs.

socalcon on March 3, 2014 at 7:02 PM