The final agreement is not much different from this previously leaked working draft. An update has been circulating this week in the Pentagon and the US Congress. The Pentagon, via Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, justifies the whole thing by the proverbial need to "maintain Afghanistan's security" and make sure foreign aid is not being squandered (as it has always been).
Marine General Joseph Dunford, the current US/NATO military commander in Afghanistan, wants up to 13,000 troops to stay, not including security guards and the cream of the crop, the counter-terrorism gang. In theory, these forces won't engage in combat "unless otherwise mutually agreed." The draft text emphasizes, "US military operations to defeat Al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate in the common fight against terrorism."
Translation: a future festival of raids by Special Forces, and a counter-terror free-for-all.
The draft text only mentions, vaguely," full respect for Afghan sovereignty and full regard for the safety and security of the Afghan people, including in their homes," as Obama also mentioned in his letter to Karzai.
And there's absolutely nothing on the critical issue of drones based in Afghan bases that have been used for incinerating the odd commander but also scores of innocent civilians in the Pakistani tribal areas.All about pivoting to Asia
The Maliki government in Baghdad had the balls to confront the Pentagon and veto the immunity for US forces -- effectively kicking out the occupying force in Iraq. Hamid Karzai, for his part, caved in on virtually every US demand. The key question in the next few months is for what; Mob-style protection if he stays in Afghanistan, or the equivalent of the FBI's witness protection program if he moves to the US?
Even assuming the Loya Jirga endorses the BSA (not yet a done deal) and Karzai's successor signs it (with Karzai removing himself from the tight spot), to say this opens a new Pandora's box is an understatement.
The occupation, for all practical purposes, will continue. This has nothing to do with fighting the War on Terror or jihad. There's no Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The few remnants are in Waziristan, in Pakistani territory. The US is -- and will remain -- essentially at war with Afghan Pashtuns who are members of the Taliban. And the Taliban will keep staging their spring and summer offensives as long as there are any foreign occupiers on Afghan soil.
No one knows yet how the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will respond to this. Not only Russia and China -- who are adamantly opposed to US bases in Afghanistan -- but also Iran and India, SCO observers and two countries that can sway Afghanistan away from the Taliban in a non-military way.
We just need to picture, for instance, a practically inevitable future development; Washington deciding to deploy the US missile defense system in Afghanistan (it already happened in Turkey). Russia and China already see that the US may have lost the economic race for Central Asia -- as China clinches deal after deal in the context of expanding its New Silk Road(s) grand strategy. What's left for Washington is -- guess what -- bits and pieces of the same old Pentagon Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, as in military bases to "monitor" both China and Russia very close to their borders.
What's certain is that both Russia and China -- not to mention Iran -- all see this Operation Occupy Afghanistan Forever for what it is; yet another (military) chapter of the American "pivoting to Asia."