Why Our Troops May Be Stuck in Afghanistan Until 2024

Among those furious about this: Iran, Pakistan, Taliban, the world...

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At times the popular consensus seems to be that the war in Afghanistan is winding down. American troops have already begun withdrawing, and the current plan is to hand over security for the country to Kabul by the end of 2014, according to the Telegraph. But the latest reports are that the U.S. is close to negotiating a deal with Afghanistan where U.S. troops would remain in country a lot longer... until 2024. Over ten years away. At this point, it's not set in stone, but the Telegraph reports that Afghan and American officials said that they hoped to sign the pact before the Bonn Conference in Afghanistan in December. It's been a long war, and its getting longer.

Let's try to make sense of this.

What Afghanistan is getting out of this: The Telegraph writes that "Afghans wary of being abandoned are keen to lock America into a longer partnership after the deadline." Of course, Afghanistan is divided into numerous factions, and here it seems that the leading political faction seems to be in favor. Hamid Karzai top security adviser said a longer-term presence was crucial not only to build Afghan forces, but also to fight terrorism.

What we're getting out of this: Prolonged control. It's unlikely to come as a shock to anyone that our Middle East wars are not purely humanitarian missions, and, accordingly, the Telegraph reports that "many analysts also believe the American military would like to retain a presence close to Pakistan, Iran and China." Karzai's security officer, in a similar vein, said, "the U.S. needs facilities." We certainly do.

Who is furious about this: "[P]ublicly, Iran and, privately, Pakistan." Other foreign powers (Russian ambassador to Kabul said: “Afghanistan needs many other things apart from the permanent military presence of some countries.)  But most problematically, perhaps, the Taliban, who is currently being enticed to negotiate with us -- on the precondition of complete withdrawal of foreign troops. A senior member of Hamid Karzai’s peace council said the entire plan runs the risk of so infuriating them that they will abandon the crucial negotiation talks they are needed in.  Some have even indicated to the Telegraph that the Taliban has intensified insurgency while these talks are going on.

What this will cost us: Tough to say how much of a presence will be needed. In the past, Washington officials have estimated a total of 25,000 troops. Karzai's adviser also said that: "“If [the Americans] provide us weapons and equipment, if they train our police and soldiers, then those trainers will not be 10 or 20, they will be thousands."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.