American and Afghan officials have come to an all too predictable "impasse" over the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Matthew Rosenberg of The New York Times reports.
The Status of Forces Agreement is what gives troops and/or contractors legal immunity from Afghan courts. It has been a sticking point for the last several months as Obama seeks to renew that immunity with the government of President Hamid Karzai.
The impasse, after a year of talks, has increased the prospect of what the Americans call the zero option — complete withdrawal — when the NATO combat mission concludes at the end of 2014. That is precisely the outcome they hoped to avoid in Afghanistan, after having engaged in a similarly problematic withdrawal from Iraq two years ago.
Karzai has flouted the United States the last several months by claiming that renewed immunity would wear on his credibility among the Afghan people — who, in some districts, claim to have been victims of war crimes.
Though Obama touts his role in "ending" the Iraq War, his side often omits the role the SOFA in Iraq played in American withdrawal. The administration had actually sought to extend the amount of time several tens of thousands of troops could stay with immunity, and the Iraqi Parliament voted it down.
Afghanistan is a bit different though, Rosenberg has more:
Moreover, a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan could be far costlier than it was in Iraq. It would force European powers to pull their forces as well, risking a dangerous collapse in confidence among Afghans and giving a boost to the Taliban, which remain a potent threat.
Looking at how Iraq turned out — on the brink of civil war, in addition to vast political influence from Iran — it's tough not to think that Afghanistan would largely be in the same boat; it would be an Iraq 2.0.
Not to mention the incredible loss of resources. Reports from the special inspector general for the Afghanistan Reconstruction routinely mention corruption, lack of oversight, and costly stalled projects.
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