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Draft of US-Afghan Agreement Shows US Troops May Stay in Afghanistan Indefinitely

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Americans have had an inconsistent relationship with the war in Afghanistan, our country’s longest-fought war. People do care about it, but the interest is only cursory. Yet, during a Presidential campaign that saw little discussion of the war, there was one thing that President Obama was clear about: he would end the war in Afghanistan in 2014. With that date looming, representatives from State Department have been in negotiations for months with Afghan officials in order to negotiate the terms of the war’s “end.”

Unfortunately, Richard Engel, an NBC News reporter who has covered the war extensively, obtained a copy of the working draft of the agreement and discovered some rather disturbing language that directly contradicts the stated intention of the President to “end” the war. In the text of the agreement, annotations have been made by both the US and Afghan officials that indicate that negotiations to keep US forces in Afghanistan indefinitely.

While it was always expected that some portion of US troops would remain in a training and advisory capacity, there was some surprising language that broadened the purview of the US forces in the area, specifically continuing counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. There is a very good chance that may be a sticking point with the Afghan government and could, according to Engel, “kill the deal.”

A stipulation added by Afghan officials says that no US troops can arrest or detain anyone nor can US forces conduct searches of Afghan homes. Yet, according to the NBC report, more recent drafts “circulated among key Pentagon official and US lawmakers on Monday” showed that the Afghans relented on this point, so the deal is likely to be signed and troops would be committed to Afghanistan until at least, according to the July draft “the end of 2024 and beyond.”

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The White House, however, has told USA Today and Reuters that no decisions have yet been made, implying that the language in the Afghan deal exists only to provide the US with options.