The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

December 2, 2013

Other Views: Karzai pulling fast one

— If Afghan President Hamid Karzai is bluffing with his 11th hour set of new conditions for the U.S. and NATO to remain in Afghanistan, we should call his bluff. If he’s not bluffing, we should start packing up to depart our longest war by the end of 2014.

The U.S. thought it had reached agreement with Karzai on a Bilateral Security Agreement that could have kept the U.S. there for up to another 10 years. Indeed, the agreement had been “overwhelmingly” — the White House’s word — endorsed by a loya jirga, an informal but influential council of Afghan notables.

But at the very end of a three-day visit to Kabul by President Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice, Karzai suddenly sprang a new set of demands on the U.S. delegation.

This is a typical Karzai tactic but enough is enough.

Karzai said he would not sign the pact “if another (U.S.) soldier sets foot in an Afghan home” even though tough new restrictions on such entries have already been agreed on.

Instead of signing the BSA by the end of this year, as agreed, Karzai now says he won’t sign until after his country’s presidential elections in April. If he doesn’t sign when and as promised, the White House national security council backed up Rice by saying the U.S. would have “no choice” but to leave; our NATO allies would be only too happy to leave with us.

Karzai also demanded that the U.S. release the 17 Afghans being held at Guantanamo. We should be grateful for the opportunity to get rid of them but there are necessary U.S. legal and security procedures to be followed.

Rather bizarrely, he wants the U.S. to join with him in peace talks with the Taliban, although last summer when the U.S. arranged such talks in Qatar Karzai refused to attend.

Also at stake are $4 billion in international pledges to support the Afghan military after 2014 and $4 billion in development aid. If common sense won’t make him see reason, maybe the money will. Otherwise, we’re out of there.

—Scripps Howard News Service

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