New Afghanistan Deal: Obama to Apologize; US Troops There Indefinitely

Image: New Afghanistan Deal: Obama to Apologize; US Troops There Indefinitely

Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013 01:48 PM

By Joseph Schwerdt and Newsmax Wires

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President Barack Obama will apologize to the Afghan people under a security agreement that will keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan well beyond 2014 at a cost of billions to American taxpayers.

NBC News has obtained a draft of the security pact that shows the United States would pay to maintain multiple military outposts in Afghanistan indefinitely and pay to support hundreds of thousands of Afghan security forces.

Also, Reuters is reporting that Obama has agreed to write a letter of apology to the Afghan people acknowledging mistakes made during the "war on terror" and the suffering of the Afghan people.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

The letter is to be presented along with the draft at the meeting of tribal elders that is due to start on Thursday and run for several days.

Under the pact, U.S. troops will have sole control over Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, but will share facilities on eight Afghan-run bases throughout the country, Afghan lawmaker Khaled Pashtun told The Associated Press.

National Security adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta told lawmakers at a weekend briefing that 10,000 to 16,000 residual U.S. and NATO service personnel would stay behind in Afghanistan after 2014, lawmaker Shah Gul Rezayee told the AP. They would mentor and train the Afghan security forces, she said.

The independent Afghan Analysts Network, said Karzai also won a key security agreement from the United States that promised joint action — political, economic or military — against anyone attacking Afghanistan or giving safe haven to Afghan insurgents seeking to unseat the government.

The last-minute deal was reached just two days before Afghan leaders gather to debate the pact. It will contain provisions to give U.S. troops immunity from Afghan law and allow them to enter Afghan homes in exceptional circumstances.

President Obama has frustrated Congressional leaders with his refusal to release specifics about the U.S. presence in Afghanistan beyond next year. But many Americans were led to believe the president had intended to pull all troops out after 10 years of war.

As of Tuesday, at least 2,153 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001, according to The Associated Press.

The president also has gotten heat for apologizing for America on the international stage. He apologized after U.S. soldiers burned Qurans in Afghanistan. And he has apologized for bombing Japan to end World War II and for U.S. actions in the Middle East and Africa.

On the domestic front this month, the president told Americans he was sorry for the botched rollout of Obamacare.

Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said the agreement was partly owed Obama's promise to write the letter to the Afghan people acknowledging mistakes made during the 12-year war.

"Both sides agreed that Obama send a letter ... assuring the president and the people of Afghanistan that the right to enter into Afghan homes by U.S. forces and the extraordinary circumstances will not be misused," Faizi told reporters.

"The whole idea of having a letter was to acknowledge the suffering of the Afghan people and the mistakes of the past. That was the only thing that satisfied the president," Faizi added.

A major sticking point that could scuttle the agreement says U.S. forces staying in Afghanistan will not be tried in local courts for any crimes they commit.

Spanta told lawmakers if the U.S. doesn't get jurisdiction over its soldiers and civilian personnel, it won't sign the agreement, and it won't leave any U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan when international combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014.

Divisions run deep in Afghanistan over conceding the right to prosecute U.S. soldiers for crimes committed in the country.

Afghans are still angry over several incidents involving international troops, including the 2012 accidental burning of hundreds of copies of the Quran; a shooting spree that year by a U.S. soldier in southern Afghanistan that killed 16 people, mostly women and children; and the unintentional deaths of civilians by wayward bombs.

While Afghans may be divided over the agreement, they are also pragmatic and know they need international forces in the country, said Kabul University professor Hamidullah Faruqi.

"They will guarantee our stability. They will show to our neighbors that Afghans are not alone, and the financial aid that will come along with this agreement will benefit Afghans, and Afghans know this," he said.

Pashtun, from southern Kandahar, where a Taliban insurgency flourishes, said Washington is right to demand jurisdiction over its troops. "Our justice system is still under construction ... Even Afghans don't trust it yet," he told the AP in a telephone interview.

Pashtun said the government "is so weak" that it hasn't been able to arrest a southern warlord accused of killing 117 civilians.

The Bilateral Security Agreement is a sweeping document that incorporates the usual Status of Forces Protection Agreement, which the United States signs with every country where its troops are stationed. The document covers everything from taxation and customs duties to a promise to protect Afghanistan from hostile action.

The Afghan government on Tuesday declared a six-day public holiday to tighten security during a national conference that will vote on a draft agreement allowing U.S. troops to stay in the nation after 2014.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

The conference, known as the Loya Jirga, will begin Nov. 21 in Kabul and bring together 3,000 Afghan tribal, political and intellectual leaders. The security agreement with the United States will go to both houses of the Afghan parliament for approval if it is passed by the Loya Jirga, President Hamid Karzai said Nov. 16.

The declaration of the holiday comes three days after a Taliban suicide car bomb near the venue for the Loya Jirga killed 13 people and wounded dozens more.

"The Taliban attack will not affect the meeting, but our meeting will certainly affect them," Jawed Munadi, a delegate to the Loya Jirga, said in an interview. "Our debates are based on how to prevent such attacks and maintain security in Afghanistan through the U.S. and Afghan agreement."

Information from the Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.


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