US Marines observe an area from a school building during a patrol at a village in the Golestan district of Farah province, May 1, 2009. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
No wonder President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is threatening to blow up the entire US-Afghan security relationship.
Perhaps your attention has moved elsewhere, as it has for the vast majority of Americans, but people—civilians and military personnel are still dying apace in the ongoing war in Afghanistan, which entered its thirteenth year yesterday. Earlier this month, The Nation presented a detailed compilation and analysis of civilian deaths caused by US and NATO forces since 2001, by this reporter and Nick Turse. Civilians are still dying: in early September, for instance, an American drone strike in Kunar Province killed as many as sixteen people, many of them women and children.
Yesterday, asked about the possibility of a continuing American presence in Afghanistan after 2014, Karzai told the BBC that Americans and their allies continue to cause needless suffering among Afghan civilians:
“The worsening of relations began in 2005 where we saw the first incidents of civilian casualties, where we saw that the war on terror was not conducted where it should have been.”
According to the BBC, which also provided video of the Karzai interview:
Mr Karzai said the war should have been conducted “in the sanctuaries, in the training grounds beyond Afghanistan, rather than that which the US and NATO forces were conducting operations in Afghan villages, causing harm to Afghan people.”
As for the United States staying in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Karzai said:
“If the agreement doesn’t suit us then of course they can leave. The agreement has to suit Afghanistan’s interests and purposes. If it doesn’t suit us and if it doesn’t suit them then naturally we will go separate ways.”
Of course, in part Karzai is bluffing, because Afghanistan needs the United States indefinitely to prop up the weak and corrupt government in Kabul, even after Karzai leaves office next year. But, as in Iraq—when the Obama administration tried and failed to negotiate a semi-permanent American role there—the United States could very well find itself kicked out of Afghanistan unceremoniously if no accord is reached. Karzai is demanding that the United States formally make Afghanistan an ally, thus requiring the United States to come to its defense if and when it is attacked. He also insists that the United States halt all efforts to track down Al Qaeda elements that still remain inside Afghanistan, because those raids, by US Special Forces units, and drone attacks kill civilians. (Only a few dozen Al Qaeda operatives still remain inside Afghanistan.)