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3/13/2014 August 2014: The New Deadline for the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement?

| The Diplomat 1/2
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
August 2014: The New
Deadline for the US-
Afghanistan Bilateral
Security Agreement?
The top U.S. commander in
Afghanistan sees August 2014 as the
last possible date for the bilateral
security agreement.
On Wednesday, General Joseph F. Dunford
Jr., the top U.S. commander in
Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services
Committee that the United States runs a
real risk of allowing Al Qaeda and other
extremist groups time to regroup and plan
another attack on the West should
international troops completely withdraw by
the end of 2014. The initial objective in the
U.S. invasion of Afghanistan back in 2001
was to attack and neutralize those who had
perpetrated the devastating attacks of
September 11, 2001. Given that, the
Generals testimony amounts to an acknowledgement that the U.S. may have to walk away
from Afghanistan with no guarantee that it succeeded in changing its status as a safe haven
for fundamentalist Islamic terror groups.
During his testimony, Dunford acknowledged the precarious status of the Bilateral Security
Agreement (BSA) between the United States and Afghanistan. The agreement was prepared
and sent to Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign in late 2013 but he refused to do so on the
grounds that it would be a more appropriate task for his successor (and because he felt that a
continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan post-2014 was not in the best interests of his
country). Apart from Karzais recalcitrance, the BSA has mainstream approval in
Afghanistans political community, having been approved by both the Loya Jirga in
November 2013 and more recently by major presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah,
Ashraf Ghani, and Zulmai Rassoul.
By Ankit Panda
March 14, 2014
3/13/2014 August 2014: The New Deadline for the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement? | The Diplomat 2/2
Dunford added that should Afghanistans elections move forward without a hitch and should
a new Afghan president be in place by August, the BSA would be signed and the Pentagon
could plan for a post-2014 scenario. The Pentagon is currently in the planning stage for two
contingencies in Afghanistan: a complete withdrawal (or the zero option) or a limited
withdrawal with a conversion of a remaining force of 3,000 to 10,000 troops for limited
counter-terrorism and training operations as per the terms of the BSA.
In recent weeks, the White House, which traditionally preferred a limited post-2014
presence, began to entertain the possibility of exercising a complete withdrawal. The
Pentagon, in January, recommended that the U.S. either leave behind 10,000 troops or none
at all. Dunfords testimony notes that the military logistics of withdrawal from Afghanistan
necessitate a decision on the BSA at the latest by September. The risk to an orderly
withdrawal begins to get high in September, because of the number of tasks that need to be
accomplished, Dunford notes.
The Generals testimony indicates that he is unconvinced that Afghanistans security post-
2014 is guaranteed given the status of its security forces as they stand currently. He appears
convinced that should the U.S. exercise the zero option in Afghanistan that the Taliban is
certain to return to power. Regional powers appear to concur with Dunford. Russia, China,
India, and Pakistan have all publicly supported the BSA and urged Hamid Karzai to sign it.
Iran remains the only regional power that has come out against the BSA.
At this point, it has become apparent that Hamid Karzai will not sign the BSA during what
little time remains in his tenure as Afghanistans president. The biggest determinant of
Afghanistans post-2014 security status now appears to be its general election.
For more on the security of Afghanistan post-2014, listen to The Diplomats Flashpoints
podcast where this week Zachary Keck and I discuss the BSA, the geopolitics of
Afghanistans security, and more.