Is Afghan President Hamid Karzai acting crazy again?
Had he watched President Obama's State of the Union address last month, Karzai would have noticed that the evening's first standing ovation—and a bipartisan one, at that—came when Obama announced that "by the end of this year … America's longest war will finally be over."
At its Lisbon summit three years ago, NATO agreed, with Karzai's consent, to pull its troops out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Obama's declaration only affirmed that decision. He did, however, add a little twist, noting:
If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al-Qaida.
The "small force" would amount to roughly 10,000 NATO troops, two-thirds of them American—not quite one-fifth the number there now. The key condition, however, is that the Afghan government must sign a bilateral security agreement, which has already been negotiated by U.S. and Afghan officials. If it isn't signed, all NATO troops will leave at the end of the year, all military aid will be cut off—and, as a likely result, not just the Afghan army but the Afghan government, and probably the entire country, will go bankrupt.