News / Middle East

Is Zero Really an Option for US in Afghanistan?

U.S. Army soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division sit on a plane at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Afghanistan to return home to Fort Campbell, Ky., May 21, 2013
U.S. Army soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division sit on a plane at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Afghanistan to return home to Fort Campbell, Ky., May 21, 2013
Mohamed Elshinnawi
By the end of 2014, the United States will have been at war in Afghanistan for over a dozen years. With over 2,000 Americans dead, another 17,000 wounded and close to $700 billion spent on that war, most Americans are looking for an exit.

Public support for keeping U.S. forces in Afghanistan has fallen to a new low. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in April 2013, 56 percent of Americans say the war was not worth fighting and 42 percent say it has not contributed to the security of the United States.

Joseph Dunford, a U.S. general nominated to oversee the drawdown of American troops next year, acknowledges that the war has not met its primary objective: rooting out al-Qaida and the militants who give sanctuary to terrorists.

“Terrorists and their Taliban allies continue to operate in Afghanistan,” he said.

President Obama announced in January that the U.S. still has two goals: to train, assist and advise Afghan forces so they can maintain Afghanistan’s security and make sure that the United Stats can continue to pursue the remnants of al-Qaida and its affiliates.

According to James Dobbins, the new U.S. State Department Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, that will require a new bilateral security agreement to spell out the ground rules for an American military presence after the long-scheduled withdrawal of all combat troops in December 2014.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a news conference in Kabul, May 4, 2013.Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a news conference in Kabul, May 4, 2013.
x
Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a news conference in Kabul, May 4, 2013.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a news conference in Kabul, May 4, 2013.
The Obama administration had been considering leaving a residual force of several thousand soldiers to train Afghan security forces and to hunt leaders of the Taliban and other militant groups.  

But Obama has grown increasingly frustrated in his dealings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the issue of immunity for U.S. troops, which Karzai opposed.  Then, in June, Karzai suspended negotiations over concerns about U.S. plans to negotiate with the Taliban. 

Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues the Obama administration should not be making important strategic decisions merely on the basis of Karzai’s obstructionism.

“It is important that the U.S. recognizes that our partner is not simply President Hamid Karzai or whoever is the president of Afghanistan, instead our partner is the Afghan people,” Rubin said.

Karzai will be gone in April 2014 when the next Afghan presidential election takes place.  Rubin says that it will be important to continue to negotiate the strategic partnership with a future president of Afghanistan.

The 'zero option'

Recent reports indicate that the Obama administration may be considering the so-called “zero option” in Afghanistan, which would totally remove U.S. troops from the country unless a strategic partnership agreement could be reached.

Michael O’Hanlon, director of research at the Brookings Institution in Washington, explains that the sticking point to such an agreement would be the issue of U.S. troop immunity.
 
“The U.S. feels strongly that its residual forces can remain in Afghanistan with proper protection that will provide some degree of immunity for its soldiers, rather than subject its own troops to the jurisdiction and the legal procedures of Afghanistan,” O’Hanlon said. “That kind of issue needs to be resolved.  Without it we can’t safely and effectively operate in Afghanistan.”

O’Hanlon notes that while Afghan forces are currently conducting 90 percent of security operations, they still need help with counter terrorism, intelligence, clearing roadside bombs, air support and aerial resupply.

“With the zero option,” Hanlon said, “there is a greater chance that the Afghan Taliban would be able to re-establish control over large parts of the country.”

Michael Rubin describes such an eventuality as a real failure of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

“Afghans [have] never really lost a war; they just defect to the winning side, and even if people do not love the Taliban, they may figure they need to make their accommodation with Taliban if they become the strongest force,” he said.

Rubin says the zero option would be a disaster for Afghans and also for U.S. national security interests.  He notes that a better policy option would be to reach a framework agreement to guarantee a continued U.S. commitment to the Afghan people after the U.S. and NATO draw down.

O’Hanlon believes the zero option may be a smart tactic in negotiations, but is concerned that actually adopting this option would echo U.S. disengagement in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, which was seen as a failure.  In 2007, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reminded the House Armed Services Committee of the consequences of abandoning Afghanistan the first time:

“The United States essentially turned its back on Afghanistan,” Gates said. “And five years later came the first attack on the World Trade Center.  And so, you know, one of the lessons that I think we have is that if we abandon these countries, once we are in there and engaged, there is a very real possibility that we will pay a higher price in the end.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: KC from: Texas
July 19, 2013 5:29 PM
It is not a practical option, and Obama is just as mercurial as Karzai by presenting such an option. Of course the real partners are the Afghan people, and Obama has revealed himself to be an unreliable partner to the Afghan people by presenting such an impractical option. Karzai has also revealed himself to be more interested in operating the family business than in securing peace. Many Afghan leaders are invested in US support, and a return to Taliban rule could reverse gains, but PEACE for all Afghans is more important than protecting these investments and gains.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid