Details of Secret Pact Emerge: Troops Stuck in Afghanistan Until 2024
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Maybe you thought we’d get out of Afghanistan this very year, the drawdown date President Obama set as he surged U.S. troops into the country in December 2009; or maybe you thought the Obama administration’s target for withdrawal might be the last day of 2014, that date certain of recent vintage for turning over U.S. and NATO combat duties to the Afghans; or maybe -- if you happen to be a news jockey -- you took note when Brigadier General Walter Givhan suggested that the Afghan air force he was training might finally be up and running in 2016; or when his successor Brigadier General Michael Boera suggested that the date might slip to 2018 if Congress insisted that the Pentagon buy American, not Russian, helicopters for its pilots. Or maybe you noticed when Lieutenant General William Caldwell, commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, recently suggested that the Afghan military would need the support of thousands of foreign trainers until at least 2020.
Whatever you thought, it turns out that you were wrong, and it’s time to recalibrate. After all, according to Ben Farmer of the British Telegraph, the Obama administration is now negotiating a “pact” with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai that could leave American military “trainers” -- thousands of them -- as well as special operations forces, and the U.S. Air Force settled into some of the enormous Afghan bases the Pentagon has built there until… 2024.
Let’s try, as a start, to put 2024 in perspective.
It was 1979 -- and I was 35 -- when the U.S. embarked on its first Afghan war. If 2024 is truly the Afghan endpoint for Washington, I’ll be 80 when the last American soldier leaves.
Or think of it another way: this September’s kindergarteners will be high school graduates in 2024 (and so eligible to join the all-volunteer army in the utterly unlikely event that victory hasn’t been achieved by then).
Or thought of another way, Mullah Omar, head of the Taliban, born in 1959, will 65 and ready for retirement in 2024; George W. Bush, the president who launched the war against the Taliban in 2001, will be 78; Barack Obama, the president who made Bush’s Afghan war his own, will be 63; and David Petraeus, the general who ran the Iraq War, Centcom, the Afghan War, and then the CIA, will be 72. (Expect years of Afghan-war-related memoirs.) And NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, may be only a year from losing power in 2024 and perhaps less than 73,600 years from the nearest star (by which time, the U.S. will be out of Afghanistan).
But let’s not get downhearted. If Farmer’s 2024 date turns out to be accurate, based on what we’ve repeatedly seen over the last near decade, there’s plenty to look forward to in the intervening 13 years -- and here’s just a sampling:
The U.S. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (call it the IG), government task forces, and various media organizations can do periodic investigations and issue corruption reports for 13 more years, just like the one Task Force 2010, set up by General Petraeus, recently issued. It indicated that some $360 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars have “ended up in the hands of… the Taliban, criminals, and power brokers with ties to both,” all thanks to “profiteering, bribery, and extortion.”
And here’s something else to look forward to: If all goes well, the U.S. and its allies can continue to offer another 13 years’ worth of military and “development” funding that, as a June report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Democratic majority staff indicated, already accounts for 97 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product. And as that report (and so many others before it) also made clear, that funding has a remarkable way of “developing” next to nothing.