WASHINGTON POST 10/18/13
By Michael Shank
Regarding the Oct. 15 editorial “Afghanistan’s future”:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai will ultimately favor a deal allowing a U.S. force to remain in Afghanistan after 2014 because he knows that the Kabul administration would otherwise fall within months of the United States pulling out. Immunity for U.S. troops is a big “red line” for the majority of Afghans, yet all three leading presidential candidates — Abdullah Abdullah, Ashraf Ghani and Qayum Karzai — favor the deal because they know that the United States will not keep troops in Afghanistan without it.
The Karzai administration and the presidential candidates are betting that a deal would allow for a slow slippage into civil war, rather than immediate chaos following the presidential election. They think a slow slip would give them enough time to unite Afghans. That is an unlikely scenario, however, considering that the Taliban has rejected any deal for the United States to stay after 2014. Add troop immunity to this mix, and all the components of bad policies that will lead to a civil war are there.
What’s needed is an inclusive, political settlement, with all stakeholders included, that ends the fighting and stops the region from meddling, something we missed years ago. Until we do that, any Afghan security deal will remain elusive. Too bad we still haven’t figured that out after 12 years.
Michael Shank, Washington
The writer is director of foreign policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation.