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US, Afghanistan Sign Agreement To Disagree Later

Posted by The Agonist on April 22nd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

The NY Times, BBC and others are reporting that the U.S. and Afghanistan have “agreed on drafts of the strategic partnership agreement that pledges American support for Afghanistan for 10 years after the withdrawal of troops at the end of 2014″ in what both governments are hailing as an important step ahead of a NATO summit in May. However, it’s unclear what exactly is agreed in the agreement, other than an agreement to disagree later – raising suspicions that it’s merely an attempt to paper over the cracks ahead of that summit.

The New York Times writes:

The document promises American economic development support for Afghanistan and help in fields like agriculture and education, as well as security. It does not include any specific commitment of foreign aid because that amount must be authorized and appropriated by Congress and can not be committed by the executive branch.

However, the United States is already anticipating that it will make a substantial contribution toward paying for Afghanistan’s security forces beyond 2014 and is searching for contributions from its NATO partners. The amount is not settled, but a figure of $2.7 billion a year has been under discussion. There would be additional foreign aid for civilian fields.

At some point, a security agreement will detail if, and under what circumstances, American troops would be positioned in the country in the post-2014 period, according to senior American officials.

The Afghan government have floated the figure of $4 billion a year in total assistance, according to Al Jazeera and there’s obviously a coming disagreement over just how much Western nations will pay over the ten years this and any subsequent agreements will remain in force. Today, the Afghan government was indicating that any decision on troop and base numbers after 2014 wouldn’t be made until next year, after the US and possibly after the Afghan presidential election too if Karzai succeeds in bringing it forward a year.

If this new agreement doesn’t cover hard dollar amounts of assistance or hard troop numbers, it doesn’t cover the most important matters at all. So what does it cover? We don’t know. The BBC says “No details were released, with the deal to be reviewed by both presidents.” Politico adds “Some of the most contentious issues were removed from the broader pact into separate memorandums of understanding.”

Some? More like all. Other than a commitment from the US to stay and pay in Afghanistan until at least 2024, this agreement is more a PR document than a framework. And by producing such an empty deal in an attempt to signal all is going swimmingly with the transition, the US and Afghan governments have only succeeded in signalling the opposite.

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