Afghanistan security deal Obama signed has holes

by
May 3, 2012

By ANNE GEARAN

WASHINGTON (AP) — The 10-year security compact that President Barack Obama signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai contains promises the United States and Afghanistan cannot guarantee they will keep, and loopholes for both nations.

The deal signed Tuesday also allows either nation to walk away on a year’s notice. That could allow the next U.S. president, or the next Afghan leader, to scuttle a deal negotiated by his or her predecessor.

For Obama, the agreement represents a compromise with Karzai after messy negotiations over U.S. military detention of Afghan suspects and raids on Afghan homes that offend Afghans.

U.S. concessions were relatively small, however, and the deal Obama signed in Kabul is probably the best one he could get on a tight deadline. He wants to showcase a long-term commitment to Afghan stability when he hosts NATO leaders for a summit in Chicago later this month. U.S. officials said the deal is legally binding, but it does not carry the force of a treaty as Afghanistan originally wanted.

Obama called the agreement historic, and said it “defines a new kind of relationship between our countries — a future in which Afghans are responsible for the security of their nation, and we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states.”

The deal pledges Afghanistan to fight corruption, improve efficiency and protect human rights, including women’s rights. All are areas where the United States already finds fault with Afghan performance, and Afghanistan has promised improvement on corruption many times before. The nine-page agreement spells out no consequences if those or other goals are not met.

The agreement uses even looser language to address the production and trafficking of illegal drugs in Afghanistan, a major opium producer. Both nations affirm that illicit drugs undermine security and legitimate economic growth but promise only to cooperate to confront the threat.

The United States promises to seek annual funding to train and equip the Afghan armed forces but gives no dollar figure. That money must be approved by Congress, which has so far supported the Obama administration’s plan to build up the Afghan forces. There is growing concern in Congress, however, about the quality of those forces, and the billions of dollars they would need over 10 years is not assured.

The agreement promises ongoing U.S. investment in a variety of development, health, education and support projects aimed at helping the poor nation one day support itself, and it commits the United States to seek annual funding from Congress “commensurate with the strategic importance of the U.S.-Afghan partnership.”

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