McKeon Too Low For Zero Option

Late Saturday, the New York Times posted an article with the misleading headline “US Considers Faster Pullout in Afghanistan”. In a classic case of burying the lede, the article contained the important news that negotiations between Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai are going so badly that Obama is considering a total withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, rather than signing an agreement outlining conditions under which a residual US force would remain in the country:

Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a “zero option” that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials.

It appears that the latest attempt at a video conference went so badly that the zero option is now under serious consideration:

A videoconference between Mr. Obama and Mr. Karzai designed to defuse the tensions ended badly, according to both American and Afghan officials with knowledge of it. Mr. Karzai, according to those sources, accused the United States of trying to negotiate a separate peace with both the Taliban and their backers in Pakistan, leaving Afghanistan’s fragile government exposed to its enemies.

Mr. Karzai had made similar accusations in the past. But those comments were delivered to Afghans — not to Mr. Obama, who responded by pointing out the American lives that have been lost propping up Mr. Karzai’s government, the officials said.

The option of leaving no troops in Afghanistan after 2014 was gaining momentum before the June 27 video conference, according to the officials. But since then, the idea of a complete military exit similar to the American military pullout from Iraq has gone from being considered the worst-case scenario — and a useful negotiating tool with Mr. Karzai — to an alternative under serious consideration in Washington and Kabul.

For the record, it should be noted that I have maintained since negotiations began last November that Afghanistan will never grant the criminal immunity the US insists on for soldiers remaining in the country and that the US will bumble into the same zero option in Afghanistan that it reached in Iraq.

It would appear that the Taliban also agree that things are going very badly on the negotiation front. From CBS News yesterday morning:

A diplomat and Taliban official say the Afghan Taliban are closing their Qatar office at least temporarily to protest demands they remove a sign that identified the movement as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The office was opened less than a month ago to facilitate peace talks, and has also come under pressure for using the same white flag flown during the Taliban’s five-year rule of Afghanistan that ended with the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Clearly, if the US winds up with zero residual forces, there would be no reason for the Taliban to negotiate with the US (or Karzai).

ToloNews has this report on yesterday’s press briefing by White House spokesman Jay Carney (the transcript was not yet posted when I wrote this post):

Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, said on Tuesday that a decision on the exact pace and numbers of the U.S. troop withdraw from Afghanistan is not “imminent.” However, he said that a “zero option” for the U.S. troop presence post-2014 is still on the table.

The idea that the US could finally completely end its misadventure in Afghanistan should appeal to most rational people who are concerned about the loss of soldiers on both sides of the conflict, the huge losses of civilians who have been killed in the conflict and the massive drain on the US treasury.

Sadly, Buck McKeon, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, is both one of the most corrupt members of Congress (even getting national defense contractors to contribute for the first time ever to a state legislature race when his wife was running) and not rational when it comes to concern for life and tax dollars. Sensing that his corporate masters in the defense contracting business stand to lose money under a zero option, McKeon rushed to their rescue. From an article in The Hill, yesterday evening:

The Obama administration is not considering the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan after 2014, House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said Tuesday.

“This evening, senior Administration officials assured me that there is no ‘zero option’ scenario under consideration,” McKeon said in a statement. “I was assured that the United States has committed to post-2014 support to include troops on the ground. I was further informed that a ‘zero option’ would violate American commitments to the Afghan people.”

It’s nice to know that McKeon has “senior Administration officials” in his pocket who will help him try to keep defense contractors feeding at the trough while soldiers and civilians are slaughtered senselessly. McKeon has proven that he is too low for (the) zero option.

And if you aren’t singing it by now, you should be:

[youtuber youtube=’’]

8 replies
  1. rosalind says:

    thx, jim. hard to choose which Down With Tyranny Buck McKeon post to link as a companion piece, but i’ll go with “Buck McKeon’s Family Opens A Defense Industry Lobbying Firm To Enrich Itself At Taxpayers’ Expense”

    and Dr. Lee Rogers is making another go at this seat and has an excellent chance, so fingers crossed McKeon’s days of selling us out to security state contractors are coming to a close.

  2. Garrett says:

    I’m seeing the elections mess as also being an issue. The Times says that here:

    President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan

    Elections in Afghanistan are now just severely fucked. It’s at least as much the United States, as anyone else, that has fucked them.

    A decision about elections and withdraw schedule would have to be made

    Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, said on Tuesday that a decision on the exact pace and numbers of the U.S. troop withdraw from Afghanistan is not “imminent.”

    fairly soon. They can’t put off a decision forever.

    Zalmay Khalilzad, former Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the U.N., is reported meeting with various groupings of warlords. Khalilzad gets singled out as being behind the original U.S. warlord plan. Maybe he’s freelancing now. And not a double secret, no one would ever suspect, U.S. negotiator.

  3. joanneleon says:

    I would love to believe that zero option is really being considered but I don’t think there is a chance in hell that it is. I think it’s just a very desperate attempt to force Karzai’s hand.

    Are they really going to walk away? Leave those bases near the Iranian border too? Of course nobody knows if zero option includes a whole mess of mercenaries, do they?

    But please, let me be wrong.

  4. Jim White says:

    @joanneleon: My argument remains that it still comes down to the immunity agreement, and I just don’t see Afghanistan granting it. As Garrett and others have pointed out to us many times, Karzai basically knows he is toast, so he has no incentive to grant it. I also think that if the final say gets dropped onto Parliament, they won’t grant it, either. As we saw in Iraq, immunity overrides all the other US “noble” intentions and will see us rolling out everyone in November or December of 2014.

  5. Michael Murry says:

    Another Catastrophic Success

    With their tails tucked proudly ‘tween their legs
    Advancing towards the exit march the dregs
    Of empire, whose retreat this question begs:
    “No promised omelet, just the broken eggs?”

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” copyright 2011

  6. Ken Hoop says:

    The US “promised” to leave Afghan if an earlier election did not take place, but Karzai’s opponent dropped out, saying the conditions were corrupted in favor of Karzai (again.)

    But the US of course did not leave then.

  7. matt carmody says:

    The US will not completely walk away from a major opium growing region. This government through the CIA and DEA has smuggled as much opium and heroin as the good old East India Company, AKA the British Monarch and the Bank of England.
    Even as billions of tax dollars disappear into black budgets to support intelligence activities, including murder of American citizens, billions more in drug profits are laundered through Wall Street banks. Forget about earnings reports, take a look at opium acreage planted and the projected harvest amounts.
    This government, all three branches, is a RICO enterprise.

  8. matt carmody says:

    Just a quick thought – Is Henry Kissinger ever gonna fuckin’ die or doesn’t even Hell want him on its territory? (RICO brings Dr. K’s image to mind every time.)

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