Unlike the Iraq campaign, the Afghanistan campaign “Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)” held wide public and governmental support because of the regions direct connection with events of September 11. Thus, clear and concise objectives created a framework for Operation Enduring Freedom including: 1) to end the Taliban regime’s ability to create a safe haven for al Qaeda, and 2) to end al Qaeda utilization of territory within the Afghan border as a base of operations and training facility.
First phase of the campaign, initiated in October 7, 2001, had an interim government in place as of December 2001 and Hamid Karzai sworn in as de facto leader. The second phase proved much more difficult as operations continue over a decade later. The deposed Taliban regrouped and created an insurgency movement fueled and fed by a motley collection of Taliban, al Qaeda members and others.
Over the course of this long campaign, the U.S. military and International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) suffered 2,961 casualties with the greatest number occurring in 2010 (711) (1). U.S. casualties include 1,895 KIA and 15,415 WIA (2). From 2007 to 2011, an estimated 11,864 Afghan civilians died in this campaign. The latter number established as the United Nations began reporting statistics (2).
International diplomacy highly recommends that a Status of Forces Agreement, or SoFA, should be present when and where a foreign military force occupies areas within the boundaries of a sovereign host nation.
Such an agreement serves as an understanding between two or more governments speaking to the conduct and terms of the occupying force and acts as a proactive measure to protect against the oft-pejorative “imperialism” [contemporaneously known as expansionism coupling neo- mercantilism]. The most important and enduring aspect of the U.S.-Iraqi SoFA was the end date, or date wherein occupying [foreign] military forces cease operations.
That understanding begs the following question: what are the SoFA terms between the U.S. military and International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA)? Most importantly, is there an established timetable or end date for military operations in Afghanistan?
Established in 2003, the current SoFA terms with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) addresses conduct and consequences of conduct of military personnel serving in Afghanistan but does not contain a timetable or end date.
The current SoFA terms enabled the United States to extradite the now infamous Sgt. Robert Bales following a killing spree that left at least 17 Afghan civilians dead and six wounded. The dead and wounded included women and children.
The current SoFA terms, based in part on the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations (established Vienna, 18 April 1961), allow for persona non grata in terms of diplomats (per Article 9). Furthermore, Article 29 provides inviolability for the person of diplomats and establishes their immunity from civil and criminal jurisdiction with precise exceptions to immunity from civil jurisdiction where previous State practice had varied (Article 31). As a cautionary footnote, former and latter terms are waive-eligible by the sending State (Article 32) (3).
So when does it end? When does the death and destruction cease? What are the prospects of accomplishing the objectives?
As of April 2012, a NATO pact was agreed upon wherein a complete withdraw of foreign troops should occur by 2014. Several ill-defined contingencies rest on this plan, leaving room for re-negotiations. Additionally, Afghan leader Karzai successfully encouraged tribal leaders to endorse an agreement that would potentially keep U.S. troops in the region beyond 2014.
So when does it end?
On February 11, 2011, House of Representative Member [of California] Lynn Woolsey (D) introduced H.R. 651 demanding that the Obama Administration create a SoFA agreement with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) to replace the outdated and, perhaps, ineffectual 2003 SoFA.
The Woolsey Bill 651, relegated to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sits languishing without further action. This Bill mandates the Obama Administration to create an end date, a timetable for military operations in Afghanistan.
President Karzai’s resolution, the U.S. non-response to the Woolsey Bill 651 and the Vienna Convention 1961 gives a carte blanche approach to foreign and, more importantly, military affairs.
This time, our time, as much as any other time in history, requires the people. The present requires us, the people, to be vigilant. It is time for the people to steer, to navigate government toward a certain end; not to have government shepherd us toward its end. We need to transition from sheep to the shepherd.
Image Contributed by Paris Kaye