Afghanistan Can't Throw Us Out, We're Leaving!

Lest anybody forget (and how short and fickle is memory?), the United States didn't so much withdraw from Iraq as get booted out when the Obama administration insisted that American troops were above the law — local law, that is.That may sound downright churlish to folks here at home, but many Iraqis held the peculiar belief that U.S. military personnel, when they behave badly in that country, should be held accountable in that country. That's not an unusual position — the Japanese hold to it over the conduct of American troops on Okinawa, for instance. And now the issue of immunity from local law looks like the factor behind the accelerating U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Regarding our departure from Iraq, so often touted as an Obama administration success, CBS News wrote in 2011:

President Obama pulled the plug Friday on negotiations that would have kept American troops in Iraq past the end of this year. CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports the president's demand for immunity for U.S. troops stationed there was the dealbreaker.

... scarred by scandals like the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, the killings -- both accidental and deliberate -- of civilians, and incidents with security contractors like the Blackwater guards who gunned down people in a public square, Iraqi politicians refused to grant American troops immunity from prosecution under local laws.

So, the U.S. withdrew from Iraq in an "I've been thrown out of better joints than this," sense.

Now the Christian Science Monitor tells us of Afghanistan:

A diplomatic dance has commenced between the US and Afghanistan over a US request for legal immunity that would enable a contingent of American troops to stay on beyond 2014.

Failure to agree on an immunity deal in Iraq ensured that US forces pulled out completely by the end of 2011, further diminishing American influence there despite toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003 and fighting a bloody counterinsurgency to backstop the governments that followed. Now, observers are watching to see how Afghanistan will handle the issue, which would determine just how many soldiers stay past a 2014 deadline for withdrawal of combat troops.

Legal immunity? But why would that be an issue in Afghanistan? Oh, that's right. Sometimes U.S. troops behave very badly, indeed. Of course, most military personnel are perfectly able to refrain from rape or murder sprees, but that sort of thing does get the locals upset. And they're not always happy with assurances that the offenders' employers will make everything all right thousands of miles away, out of view.

In fact, people in Afghanistan may really be getting tired of our presence. Reports the Washington Post:

Top Afghan officials said Obama’s pledge last week to remove U.S. troops from Afghan villages should apply to Special Operations forces charged with training the Afghan Local Police. But U.S. officials said they assumed that the policy would apply only to traditional military operations and would include an exemption for the police trainers, whose mission they see as critical to security throughout Afghanistan.

Hey, it's tough out there for an imperial power.

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  • sarcasmic||

    People in the federal government acting like the law doesn't apply to them?

    I'm shocked! Shocked I tell you! Shocked!

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Man, I sure missed out on all the rape and murder and lootin' when I got to spend a year there digging wells, building schools and getting shot at for my pains - poor Afghans, I am so sorry I intruded.

    J.D. - those reports are some serious lazy going on - "Top Afghan officials". Imagine the howls we'd hear for anony "Administration officials" in some report from DC? I am sure the WaPo reporters beat the bushes looking for the ordinary Adjmal and Wahid to talk to, and not some local power broker who finds his style cramped by someone with guns besides his own goons. Could they simply not say "a putative warlord in Mazar-i-Sharif we spoke to..."?

    And "imperial power"? Really? So are we taking rubber from Malaya and Tea from India? There are plenty of ways to criticize our involvement in Afghanistan without reaching for the 1968 lexicon.

  • John Henry||

    And "imperial power"? Really? So are we taking rubber from Malaya and Tea from India? There are plenty of ways to criticize our involvement in Afghanistan without reaching for the 1968 lexicon.

    Imperialism: the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas; broadly : the extension or imposition of power, authority, or influence (from Merriam-Webster).

    Sounds fairly accurate at this point of our involvement in AF. What other word would you use?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    And we are leaving as the point of the article made it. Too "broadly" does that definition attempt to fit.

    I would call it an occupation, myself. Has it gone too long without a proper direction - yes. Our experience went much better with places that had a much more cohesive culture/national identity such as Germany and Korea. Trying to hold an artificial construct (Durand line anyone?) together isn't working well.

  • ||

    "And "imperial power"? Really? So are we taking rubber from Malaya and Tea from India? "

    ^^ This. Most imperial powers don't tend to occupy countries that are financial or economic sinkholes.

  • ChrisO||

    If we were smart (ha!) we'd have taken over the opium trade and gone after all those rare earths that are supposedly hiding under that godforsaken wasteland. If you're going to act like an imperial power, you might as well get something for your troubles.

    Instead, we let a bunch of tribal primitives shoot away at our guys for a decade for...absolutely nothing.

    The better course, obviously, would have been to avoid the shithole altogether.

  • ||

    "What other word would you use?"

    Assholish.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Also we have basically the same kind of SOFAs with Germany, Japan and Korea, but that's not even mentioned here. It's pretty standard.

    Hell the UN has the same thing, but I guess none of the cosmotariat will EVER bitch about them.

    Granted, it's not 100%, in that the US CAN allow the locals to prosecute if the US wants to, but usually they don't: see the routine rapes in and around Misawa.

    JD's usually not an Orange Line commuter, so I'll pin this on him being up early or something. That's one, two chiles, you don't get two!

  • Adam330||

    I'm relatively certain that US military are subject to prosecution in Japan and Germany, even if the US objects. In specific cases, the US and the host country agree that one or the other will do the prosecution, but the host country has the legal right to prosecute.

  • Adam330||

    But, in any case, the SOFAs in Japan and Germany aren't very relevant. 1) we're not actively fighting a war there, so the potential for a prosecution based on a raid gone bad, etc. is nil. 2) those countries have developed, non-corrupt judicial systems where soldiers are likely to get something resembling a fair trial.

  • Lord Humungus||

    who could be tired of us - after only years and years of bumbling around.

    *mumbles something about fish, guests, three days*

  • LTC(ret) John||

    They sure are not tired of the money we pour into the place.

    The "bumbling" is at the highest levels - we cannot figure out what to do at the high level except prop up Karzai and his Pashtun crime ring. I noticed a distinct lack of direct in 2004 - other than a list of tasks, all disjointed, if admirable in the singular. Develop sustainable institutions was my favorite along with capacity building... for a country that had started a civil war in the mid 1970s to the present, and Pak, Russian and US intervention thrown in for good measure. Ha!

  • waaminn||

    Oh how I wish the US would stop wasting endless billions in places it has no business.

    www.okAnon.tk

  • Randian||

    This sounds like a Republican-friendly way to withdraw from Afghanistan, if you ask me.

  • Bee Tagger||

    And now the issue of immunity from local law looks like the factor behind the accelerating U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    Is this the way it's going to work with domestic local laws challenging any pronouncements from the federal government regarding the 2nd amendment, health care, and marijuana?

  • John||

    the United States didn't so much withdraw from Iraq as get booted out when the Obama administration insisted that American troops were above the law — local law, that is.

    That can't be true. Reason has been telling me for years that the US is an empire and Iraq is a colonial endeavor. Empires are never "booted out" absent a war to do them. So there is simply no way that the Iraqis asked us to leave and we complied. They have no sovereignty and are part of the American Empire. They can't do that.

  • Drake||

    Legal immunity? Of course there has to be legal immunity.

    Without it, the corrupt Mayor of shithole buttfuckistan can put U.S. troops on trial for their lives on trumped up charges. Female soldiers break the law every day by not covering up and talking to men they aren't related to.

    I'm glad we are leaving for whatever reason. It would be absolutely insane to submit our troops to their laws.

  • John||

    ^^THIS^^

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Comparing the legal system in Japan, which generally has the rule of law one finds in developed countries, to the kangaroo courts in Afghanistan is ridiculous. While the US should be doing a better job of punishing troops that commited actual crimes, that doesn't mean we should subject our soldiers to the threat of execution if some unruly mob decides they've "blasphemed" and some local judge wants to make an example of someone to make the headache goes away.

  • John||

    While the US should be doing a better job of punishing troops that commited actual crimes

    How so? Can you show me a case where people were not prosecuted? Or are there just cases where you didn't like the result?

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