Today, the United States and Afghanistan signed a long-awaited bilateral security agreement. The U.S. government promised to withdraw combat troops by December, and to leave nearly 10,000 U.S. troops plus allied forces in the country in an “advise-and-assist mission” after combat forces withdraw at the end of this year.
Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, signed the agreement after his predecessor Hamid Karzai, refused to sign one in 2013. The hope is that the U.S. presence will help ensure Afghanistan’s government does not fall victim to Iraq-like sectarian chaos. But as for where and how the U.S. combats terrorism going forward, the deal — which remains largely secret — raises at least as many questions as it answers.
For example, what will happen to several dozen prisoners the United States still holds at the Parwan detention facility (formerly known as Bagram) outside Kabul? The U.S. formally turned over management of the facility to Afghanistan last year, but retained control over its non-Afghan detainees. Although the United States has refused to disclose their identities, U.S. officials have unofficially revealed that most are Pakistani. Others are believed to be from Yemen, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Many have been imprisoned by the United States without charge or trial for over a decade.
U.S. Brigadier General Patrick J. Reinert recently told Reuters that the United States may send some back to their home countries, may bring some to the United States, and may even send some to Guantanamo Bay. But adding to the population at the Guantanamo prison, which President Obama has been promising to close since he first took office, would be a huge mistake. (Instead, here’s how the U.S. can close it.)