Have U.S. Troops Overstayed Their Welcome in Afghanistan?

Afghan President Hamid Karzai heads to a press conference on Nov. 16

Rahmat Gul/AP

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai heads to a press conference on Nov. 16

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has hosted U.S. troops for more than a decade, but now his hospitality is running out, putting a post-2014 deal at risk. By Stephanie Gaskell

Back in 2005, when the world was barely paying attention to the war in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai complained that U.S. and NATO troops were knocking on doors and entering the homes of Afghans as they pleased. “No coalition forces should go to Afghan homes without the authorization of the Afghan government,” he said. Years later, Karzai railed against night-time raids, which the U.S. military uses to surprise — and capture — high-value terror targets.

Now, as U.S. and NATO forces negotiate a so-called bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan to keep a smaller force in the country after combat operations officially end next year, Karzai’s hospitality again seems to be waning. The main sticking point is whether coalition forces will be able to search Afghan homes, and once again Karzai is wary of allowing foreign troops to disrupt the lives of his people. He has refused the NATO request, Reuters reports, and threatens to derail the negotiations entirely.

They want a window left open to go into Afghan homes, but the president does not accept that — not unilaterally and not joint,” an Afghan official told Reuters. “From our side there is no flexibility on this issue of allowing Americans to search Afghan homes, because this is more important than jurisdiction.”

Jurisdiction — whether Afghanistan has the right to prosecute any U.S. soldier who commits a crime in Afghanistan — is what derailed efforts in Iraq in 2011 to keep U.S. and NATO troops there after that war. Karzai has said he’s not convinced he should give U.S. troops immunity.

This latest impasse emerged just days before Thursday’s scheduled loya jirga, a key gathering of Afghan political and tribal leaders to debate the post-2014 question. The United States has been eager to seal a deal with Afghanistan because there’s worry that as next spring’s presidential election nears, the desire to project Afghan sovereignty will only grow.

The insurgency’s rejection of foreign troops is growing too. A car bomb exploded on Saturday at the site planned for the next loya jirga, killing at least 10 people

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