The so-called “zero option” on Afghanistan, leaving no troops after the end of 2014, is back as a talking point for the Obama Administration, coming as the White House tries to coax President Hamid Karzai back to talks on troop levels.
The tactic isn’t entirely knew, as major Karzai rows usually result in the administration giving lip-service to the zero option, with the hope of scaring Karzai back to the table with the prospect of being overrun by the Taliban without occupation forces to secure his rule.
On the other hand Karzai’s withdrawal from the talks came because of fear that he’s going to get left out of a US-Taliban deal, and as a lame duck president he doesn’t have nearly the reason to play ball he once did.
Gen. John Allen, the retired head of the US occupation, also spilled the beans a few months ago when he admitted that the zero option was never even considered, and that the US has operated only on the assumption that some level of troops, how many remains to be seen, will be occupying Afghanistan in 2015 and beyond.
Assuming this hasn’t changed suddenly, Karzai has the option of calling the administration’s bluff this time, and holding out for better terms on any deal. Either way, Karzai’s term in office ends next May, and that will leave the US with a chance to negotiate with his successor, and leave Karzai with plenty of time to flee into exile if things break badly for him.
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