U.S. ‘Zero Option’ Back on Table in Afghanistan as BSA Talks Remain Stalled



U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday to discuss his rejection of the Loya Jirga’s recommendation that he sign that Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, and reports are emerging that the conversation did not go well.  According to a White House press release, Rice told Karzai that: “Without a prompt signature, the U.S. would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan”.

The so-called “zero option” has been threatened before during the tense negotiations over the security pact, but many Afghan observers did not think it would actually come to pass.

Rice added that the United States was ready to sign the deal, now that it has been approved by the jirga, but Karzai outlined new conditions for signing the agreement, including U.S. help restarting stalled peace talks with the Afghan Taliban and returning all of the Afghan citizens currently being held at Guantanamo Bay, and reiterated his stance that it should be signed after next April’s presidential elections (AJAMBBCNYTPajhwokPost).  The United States has not publicly commented on these additional caveats, except to say that waiting until after the Afghan elections is not a viable option.

Karzai’s firm stance against signing the BSA has put him at odds with many of his countrymen.  As the Los Angeles Times wrote, “From presidential candidates to grocers and spice merchants, many Afghans threw up their hands in frustration and exasperation with their elected president” (LAT).  The report went on to say that Afghans were baffled to see Karzai reject the recommendations of the Loya Jirga, which he had personally convened.  Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, a member of Afghanistan’s parliament, added that: “You could just see the discomfort and confusion in the loya jirgawhen the president spoke.  These are people with influence and power.  They reflect the will of the Afghan people, but their decision was ignored.”

Stoning to return? 

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Justice has reintroduced public stoning for convicted adulterers in a draft revision of the country’s penal code, Human Rights Watch reported on Monday (AJAMFox NewsGuardian).  The international rights organization urged the Afghan government to reject the proposed sentences — stoning for married adulterers, flogging for unmarried offenders — and asked aid donors to send a clear message by withholding funding (PajhwokVOA).  The report, which was released on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, highlighted concerns that rights for women in Afghanistan are starting to disappear as NATO troops prepare to withdraw at the end of next year.


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