What Obama’s deal with Afghanistan really allows

Away from the slop offered by mainstream propagandists, Washington’s occupation of Afghanistan will continue for years to come, as Gareth Porter explains:

The optics surrounding the Barack Obama administration’s “Enduring Strategic Partnership” agreement with Afghanistan and the Memorandums of Understanding accompanying it emphasise transition to Afghan responsibility and an end to U.S. war.

But the only substantive agreement reached between the U.S. and Afghanistan – well hidden in the agreements – has been to allow powerful U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) to continue to carry out the unilateral night raids on private homes that are universally hated in the Pashtun zones of Afghanistan.

The presentation of the new agreement on a surprise trip by President Obama to Afghanistan, with a prime time presidential address and repeated briefings for the press, allows Obama to go into a tight presidential election campaign on a platform of ending an unpopular U.S. war in Afghanistan.

It also allows President Hamid Karzai to claim he has gotten control over the SOF night raids while getting a 10-year commitment of U.S. economic support.

But the actual text of the agreement and of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on night raids included in it by reference will not end the U.S. war in Afghanistan, nor will they give Karzai control over night raids.

The Obama administration’s success in obscuring those facts is the real story behind the ostensible story of the agreement.

Obama’s decisions on how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan in 2014 and beyond and what their mission will be will only be made in a “Bilateral Security Agreement” still to be negotiated. Although the senior officials did not provide any specific information about those negotiations in their briefings for news media, the Strategic Partnership text specifies that they are to begin the signing of the present agreement “with the goal of concluding within one year”.

That means Obama does not have to announce any decisions about stationing of U.S. forces in Afghanistan before the 2012 presidential election, allowing him to emphasise that he is getting out of Afghanistan and sidestep the question of a long-term commitment of troops in Afghanistan.