TEHRAN – On October 12 Washington and Kabul agreed on a draft deal that would keep some U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 2014, but only if political and tribal leaders in Afghanistan agree to a U.S. demand that U.S. troops not be subject to Afghan law.
A professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco says “maintaining a U.S. military presence (in Afghanistan) may be positive on a tactical level” but “it may hurt on a strategic level.”
Presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan “could result in a nationalist reaction that could weaken the credibility of the government among the Afghan people and strengthen the Taliban and other opponents,” Stephen Zunes tells the Tehran Times.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: What will the impact be of the Afghan-U.S. security deal on regional security, especially Iranian security?
A: Since the United States has bases in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, as well as a large Navy carrier fleet in the Indian Ocean, a continued military presence in Afghanistan will probably not make a major difference in terms of regional security. Due to the dangers to U.S. personnel and equipment from Taliban attacks and the availability of these more secure posts nearby, it is unlikely that the United States would want to have a larger presence in Afghanistan than is necessary to focus on fighting the insurgency. However, by extending the Afghan government’s dependency on the United States, it would prevent Afghanistan from playing a more independent role in regional politics and make it difficult for them to develop closer relations with Iran.
Q: Do Afghan political and tribal leaders agree to a key U.S. demand that American troops not be subject to Afghan law?
A: It is very possible that Afghan political and tribal leaders will not agree to this demand and the agreement will never go into effect. This is what happened in Iraq in 2011, when a similar tentative agreement with the Iraqi government was never implemented because of the U.S. insistence on extra-territorial rights for its troops. However, the Afghan government today is in a more vulnerable position in relation to their country’s insurgency than was Iraq two years ago and they are more dependent on U.S. assistance for their security, so they may be forced to agree.
Q: Would the agreement have a positive impact on Afghan security?
A: Maintaining a U.S. military presence may be positive on a tactical level, given that U.S. forces have superior training, leadership, and equipment. However, it may hurt on a strategic level, since the ongoing presence of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan—particularly if they are immune from Afghan law—could result in a nationalist reaction that could weaken the credibility of the government among the Afghan people and strengthen the Taliban and other opponents.