We came, we saw, we stayed. Forever. That's the essence of the so-called Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to be struck between the Obama administration and Afghanistan -- over 12 years after the start of the never-ending War on Terror.
President Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry define it as a "strategic partnership." If that's the case, it's one of the most lopsided in history; Afghan President Hamid Karzai is no more than a sartorially impeccable American puppet.
Kerry announced the so-called BSA in Washington on Wednesday even before a Loya Jirga ("Grand Council," in Pashto) of 2,500 Afghan tribal leaders, clerics, members of parliament and merchants started their four-day deliberations in a tent on the grounds of the Polytechnical University in Kabul on Thursday.
But then Karzai, probably in his last major speech as president, pulled off a fabulous stunt. He knows he is, and will be, accused of selling Afghanistan down the (Panjshir) river. He knows he is sacrificing Afghan sovereignty for years to come -- and there will be nasty blowback for it.
So once again he channeled Hamid the Actor, and played his best honest broker impersonation, stressing the BSA should be put off until the Afghan presidential elections in April 2014, and be signed by his successor.It was high drama
"There's a mistrust between me and the Americans. They don't trust me and I don't trust them. I have always criticized them and they have always propagated negative things behind my back," he claimed.
I have been to Jirgas in Afghanistan; even looking at those inscrutable, rugged tribal faces is a spectacle in itself. So what were they thinking in Kabul? Of course they did not trust the Americans. But did they trust Karzai? Could they see this was all an act?
A consultative Loya Jirga cannot veto the BSA. Even the Jirga chairman, Sibghatullah Mojadeddi, stressed Karzai may sign without any consultation. Yet Karzai insists he will not sign without the Loya Jirga's approval.
Many members of the Afghan parliament and the entire Afghan opposition already voted with their feet, boycotting the Jirga. Not to mention the Taliban -- essential to any agreement on the future of Afghanistan -- and the still fully weaponized Hezb-e-Islami. Everyone is eagerly waiting to hear Taliban supremo Mullah Omar's take on the whole kabuki.
The BSA "negotiation" has been like an extended Monty Python sketch. Washington has always insisted US soldiers can break into Afghan homes at will and remain immune to any sort of Afghan prosecution. Otherwise the Americans will leave for good at the end of 2014, leaving just the poorly trained and largely corrupt Afghan National Army (ANA) to fight the Taliban.
Up until Karzai's latest stunt, the Obama administration considered the deal was in the bag. Just look at the letter Obama sent to Karzai.
And by the way, no apologies. National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Washington does not need to apologize for killing and injuring tens of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan since 2001, not to mention occupying vast swathes of the country. Earlier, a Karzai spokesman said that would be the case.
If in doubt, just listen to super-hawk US Senator Lindsay Graham, who told Reuters, "I'm stunned. Apologize for what? Maybe we should get the Afghan president to apologize to the American soldiers for all the hardship he's created for them."
There's nothing "residual' about a US occupation to be disguised as "forces" necessary to train and "advise" the roughly 350,000 soldiers and police which are part of ANA, built from scratch over the last few years.
And what we're talking about here is a deal starting in 2015 and in effect up to 2024 "and beyond."