The “first step” agreement between Iran and the United States that was sealed in Geneva over the weekend is supposed to lead to the negotiation of a “comprehensive settlement” of the nuclear issue over the next six months, though the latter has gotten little attention.
But within hours of the agreement, there are already indications from senior U.S. officials that the Barack Obama administration is not fully committed to the conclusion of a final pact, under which economic sanctions would be completely lifted.
The administration has apparently developed reservations about such an “end state” agreement despite concessions by the government of President Hassan Rouhani that were more far-reaching than could have been anticipated a few months ago.
The signs of uncertain U.S. commitment to the “end state” agreement came in a background press briefing by unidentified senior U.S. officials in Geneva via teleconference late Saturday night. The officials repeatedly suggested that it was a question of “whether” there could be an “end state” agreement rather than how it could be achieved.
“What we are going to explore with the Iranians and our P5+1 partners over the next six months,” said one of the officials, “is whether there can be an agreed upon comprehensive solution that assures us that the Iranian programme is peaceful.”
The same official prefaced that remark by stating, “In terms of the ‘end state’, we do not recognise a right for Iran to enrich uranium.”
Later in the briefing, a senior official repeated the same point in slightly different words. “What the next six months will determine is whether there can be an agreement that…gives us assurance that the Iranian programme is peaceful.”
“We’ll see whether we can achieve an end state that allows for Iran to have peaceful nuclear energy,” said one of the officials.
After speaking with Obama on Sunday, Netanyahu dispatching national security adviser to Washington; says permanent deal must dismantle Iran’s program.
“I spoke last night with President [Barack] Obama. We agreed that in the coming days an Israeli team led by the national security adviser, Yossi Cohen, will go out to discuss with the United States the permanent accord with Iran,” Netanyahu told members of his Likud party.
At the end of that Press TV interview, it would appear that Karzai’s little snit over delaying the signing, is all about his handgroomed Prez candidate and Washington’s preferred puppet…! Now, in eating some crow, by thinking that we couldn’t possibly have bought off the entire Loya Jirga, I was sorely mistaken…
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s demand to delay the signing of a security pact with the U.S. until after April’s presidential vote is unacceptable and will harm the country, the head of a council of tribal elders said.
Karzai has “no right” to delay the signing of the accord that would pave the way for a continued American presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, chairman of the loya jirga council called by the president, said yesterday.
“Every demand of Mr. Karzai and ours have been practiced and accepted by them,” Mojaddedi told reporters in front of the council’s compound in Kabul.
…After that, the agreement would have to be signed by both countries before it’s ratified by Afghanistan’s parliament and signed into law by Karzai, according to two U.S. officials who briefed reporters Nov. 21 on condition of not being identified discussing the process.
Karzai’s public show of toughness is a throwback to his stance ahead of a 2011 loya jirga to consider the U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement, said Jawid Kohistani, a Kabul-based political and security analyst. The legally binding agreement was signed in 2012.
The president’s speech ahead of the council that year was similarly combative, Kohistani said. Karzai then backed down and signed after that loya jirga gave him “political cover.”
“It will be interesting to see if he now allows himself to be persuaded by the council and moderates his tone, as he did then.”
Anthony Cordesman wrote a very sober analysis of what’s at stake…
The current debate over a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan disguises far more serious challenges in the years to come. The BSA is a necessary first step in creating the conditions for United States troops to stay in Afghanistan and function there. But even if Afghan President Hamid Karzai can be persuaded to stop manipulating the issue in an effort to gain domestic political support, it is only a prelude to the real challenges the U.S. faces in staying in Afghanistan.
First, the United States must make hard choices as to how many U.S. troops it will keep in country, their role as advisors and enablers to the Afghan forces and how much money it is willing to pay to keep the Afghan forces combat capable. Senior U.S. officers have said it will take some 11,000 to 13,600 U.S. and allied troops to support Afghan military and police forces through at least 2016, and these estimates seem all too accurate given the problems in Afghan forces — particularly the police elements. It will also take some $3 billion to $5 billion in aid, although all of this aid does not have to come from the U.S.
The U.S. will also be advising forces that cannot now defeat the Taliban, Haqqani Network and other insurgents. They can only create a layered defense that may be able to secure most population centers and key lines of communication. U.S. combat forces will leave a nation very much at war, and the U.S. cannot predict how much aid and assistance Afghanistan will need…
Karzai’s surprise move, which came just a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the pact’s language had been agreed upon, suddenly threw its future into question and seemed certain to reignite tensions with Washington.
…In a statement certain to irritate the United States, which is eager to clinch the deal as soon as possible, Karzai told the assembly any agreement on the status of U.S. forces would have to wait until after a presidential election in April.
“This pact should be signed when the election has already taken place, properly and with dignity,” Karzai, who cannot run in the 2014 vote under the constitution, told the elders…
A senior Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Karzai intended to leave the pact unsigned until he is sure the international community will not interfere in the election. Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, confirmed that, adding that the grand assembly and parliament also had to approve the pact.
“Once we are assured of peace and security, and transparent elections, then President Karzai will sign this pact after the election if this is approved by the Loya Jirga and passed by the parliament,” Faizi said.
He did not explain how Karzai intended to sign the document after a new president had been elected.
Karzai has appeared wary of being too closely associated with the security agreement, which would formally invite foreign forces to stay in Afghanistan.
“President Karzai just doesn’t want to own the agreement,” said Kate Clark of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network think tank. “He kept handing the responsibility for agreeing or not agreeing to the agreement to the people in the hall, to the delegates of the Loya Jirga.”
Once a weasel politician, always a politician…! Speaking of which…
President promises U.S. troops won’t enter Afghan homes except under ‘extraordinary circumstances’
President Barack Obama sent a letter to President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday, striking an empathetic and diplomatic note about how American troops will conduct themselves in Afghanistan, as the two countries near an agreement for a continuing U.S. presence there.
“Over time, and especially in the recent past, we have redoubled our efforts to ensure that Afghan homes are respected by our forces and that our operations are conducted consistent with your law,” Obama said in his letter(6pg PDF), which was posted on the Afghan government’s website. “We will continue to make every effort to respect the sanctity and dignity of Afghans in their homes and daily lives, just as we do for our own citizens.”
Obama promised that under the new agreement, U.S. forces would not enter Afghan homes for military operations, except under “extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk to life and limb of U.S. nationals.” One of the chief complaints among Afghans has been the practice of “night raids” where coalition troops enter homes in the middle of the night searching for suspected insurgents.
Now, if y’all believe that, I’ve got a slighty used bridge for sale, real cheap…!
Let’s look at what the WH had to say about it, Stateside…
Interestingly, although I’ve been following and blogging about Hamid Karzai’s corrupt ways and ties, for years now, little did I realize how fast it could possibly topple his government…
On Tuesday, the WaPoo reported about this sudden Bank seizure…
Afghan authorities take over biggest bank to avoid meltdown
…Afghanistan’s Central Bank has taken control of Kabul Bank, a politically potent financial institution partly owned by President Hamid Karzai’s brother, and ordered its chairman to hand over $160 million worth of luxury villas and other property purchased in Dubai for well-connected insiders, according to Afghan bankers and officials. The Central Bank’s intervention aims to shore up Afghanistan’s largest private bank, whose faltering finances threatened to wreak both economic and political havoc. Kabul Bank handles salary payments for Afghan soldiers, police and teachers, and has taken in more than $1 billion in deposits from ordinary Afghans. U.S. officials have long worried that trouble at Kabul Bank could trigger financial mayhem, a prospect that would leave Afghan security forces without pay, threaten unrest by angry – and often armed – depositors, and gravely undermine President Obama’s entire Afghan strategy
NBC News: Large investor confirms funds were used to buy Dubai villas
…About $155 million in deposits have been withdrawn from Afghanistan’s largest bank in just the last two days, spurring fresh concerns among U.S. and Afghan officials that a financial panic could spread through the country and derail the U.S. war effort, according to bank insiders and U.S. officials.
Mahmood Karzai, the brother of Afghanistan’s president and one of the principal shareholders in the troubled Kabul Bank, told NBC News in a telephone interview that panicky depositors withdrew $70 million from the bank on Thursday. This is on top of an estimated $85 million taken out on Wednesday, he said.
…Afghan President Hamid Karzai reassured nervous customers at the troubled Kabul Bank on Thursday, saying every penny of their deposits would be guaranteed by the government.
Larger than usual crowds gathered to withdraw funds from Afghanistan’s largest bank Wednesday and Thursday after two top executives resigned amid allegations of mismanagement and unorthodox real estate loans.
"The Kabul Bank is safe," Karzai said in a news conference with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal echoed that message, saying that fears about the stability of Kabul Bank had not sparked a "crisis" at Kabul Bank.
…Speaking to the media at his base in Camp Eggers, near Kabul, Gen Petraeus acknowledged, however, that concerns over sleaze were hindering a counter-insurgency drive in Kandahar and that Nato’s showpiece push in Marjah district faced tough obstacles.
Gen Petraeus described Mr Karzai as “very forthright about corruption” and said the Afghan president’s chief concern was one the US shared: Taliban safe havens in Pakistan.
He was speaking on the day that Robert Gates, US defence secretary, arrived in Kabul for talks with Mr Karzai. The Afghan president had intervened to release Mohammad Zia Salehi, one of his national security advisers, who was arrested in July over claims that he accepted a car in return for favours.
Mr Karzai’s move was widely seen as weakening two US anti-corruption bodies involved in the arrest – the Major Crimes Task Force and the Sensitive Investigative Unit. The Afghan president subsequently ordered a review of their conduct.
Gen Petraeus said: “There clearly was some friction, if you will, over the arrest of the individual who was in the palace. I think frankly those issues, perceptions, have been resolved.”
The Guardian wasn’t so charitable as the rest of the Lame Stream Media was and named names…
Afghan officials resist clean-up of Kabul Bank as scandal engulfs elite
President Hamid Karzai’s brother calls for US to guarantee deposits amid fears collapse would threaten police and army salaries
…The central bank on Tuesday ordered that the chairman and chief executive of Kabul Bank, who are both large shareholders in the bank, should step down from their positions and a government official be appointed to manage the bank.
But western officials with intimate knowledge of the financial drama said the US treasury wanted to see much stronger action. That would include bringing the bank into line with international norms…
Such independence would risk bringing to light allegations that members of the country’s business and political elite have, for years, apparently got away with using deposits of thousands of ordinary Afghans to fund lavish lifestyles. The bank’s funds are said to have been used to invest in loss-making enterprises and, allegedly, the re-election campaign of President Karzai.
In the words of one foreign official, the US treasury is anxious to "rip the lid" off the cowboy capitalism that has been allowed to flourish at Kabul Bank. [...]
"But there are lots of assets off the books. The hunch is that shareholders would like to continue to use bank assets how they want, rather than bring it into line with international best practice."
Ex-executives say their dismissals triggered run on Kabul Bank
…The two ousted executives of Afghanistan’s largest bank have blamed a hasty management purge for a run on the embattled institution this week.
President Hamid Karzai ordered the dismissal of the managers at Kabul Bank this week after concerns about questionable loans that shareholders had approved for themselves, including some to fund the purchase of high-end real estate in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.
…Afghanistan said Monday blame for most of the corruption plaguing the impoverished country lies with its Western backers who dole out "illegitimate" contracts that have created an "economic mafia".
Afghanistan, one of the most corrupt countries in the world, is under intense pressure from its foreign backers to end endemic graft.
Presidential spokesman Waheed Omer said Afghanistan’s foreign allies were responsible for the vast bulk of corruption in the country, which is mired in extreme poverty despite receiving tens of billions of dollars in Western aid over the past decade.
"Our international partners provided the ground for some people in Afghanistan to become unbelievably rich. Some people (have) become an economic mafia in Afghanistan," he said.
Billion Dollar Audit Missed by Pentagon Watchdog Military auditors failed to complete an audit of the business systems of an Ohio- based company – Mission Essential Personnel – even though it had billed for one billion dollars worth of work largely in Afghanistan over the last four years.
…In September 2007 the U.S. Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) awarded Mission Essential Personnel (MEP) a five-year-contract worth up to 414 million dollars to provide 1,691 translators in Afghanistan. MEP was a start-up company created by three men, including Chad Monnin, a U.S. Army Special Forces reservist who was injured in a parachute accident. Procurement rules give preference to companies owned by injured veterans, even if they have no prior experience.
When the Obama administration decided to expand the war in Afghanistan last year, MEP quickly hit the ceiling of what it could bill. On May 10, INSCOM gave MEP a 679 million dollar extension without bothering to put it up for competitive bid. MEP will also get a share of the Intelligence Support Services Omnibus III contract, a five-year contract, with a ceiling of 492 million dollars, announced on Aug. 10, 2010.
The only two other contractors that have held multi-billion dollar contracts to supply translators to soldiers and diplomats in the Global War on Terror – L- 3/Titan and Global Linguist Services – have both been investigated for alleged overcharging, suggesting that this type of work falls in the high risk category of government spending.
Yet the Defence Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) failed to conduct a full business systems audit for MEP.
Kabul Bank run may pose more immediate threat than Afghan Taliban
The Kabul Bank is a bedrock for a stable Afghan society. Its collapse could spell disaster for the country already battling a resurgent Afghan Taliban.
…The fallout from Kabul Bank’s problems could extend beyond the economy. The Post reported Thursday that "an unchecked run on Kabul Bank, which could spread alarm to other banks, would jeopardize not only depositors’ savings but President Obama’s Afghan strategy, which is built around efforts to rally the public against the Taliban."
American officials, security analysts, and Afghan businessmen also see it as a security threat. The US hopes a growing Afghan economy will lift living standards, undercut support for the Taliban, and increase confidence in Mr. Karzai. And the Kabul bank particularly plays a central role: it houses $1.3 billion in deposits from ordinary citizens, and also handles payments for teachers, soldiers, and police – the bedrock of a stable Afghan society.
Once again, I ask ya; what are we fighting, and dying, for…?
We can literally half our current Defense Budget and we’d still spend more than the rest of the World combined…! So pardon me if this recent rhetoric from SecDef Gates Criticizes Bloated Military Bureaucracy falls on deaf ears here, and, in the halls of congress…! It would be lovely if we saw front page headlines such as this…
…"There was fraud in the presidential election and the provincial election; no doubt there was massive fraud," Karzai said. "That was not done by the Afghans. The foreigners did that. That fraud was done by Galbraith. That fraud was done by Morillon. And that fraud was done by the embassies here."
Galbraith said that when he first heard Karzai was accusing him of organizing fraud, he thought it "must be an April fool’s joke."
"Karzai is unhinged if he expects anyone to believe such a bizarre accusation," Galbraith wrote in an e-mail. "It underscores why he is not likely to reform and therefore cannot be a credible partner."
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