- By Josh Rogin
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.
President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will discuss the roles and missions of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the war "ends" in 2014, but they will not decide or announce the number of U.S. troops to stay there, top White House officials said Tuesday.
Karzai is already in Washington but won’t have his official meetings until Jan. 10 and 11 at the State Department and the White House, respectively. Today, Karzai is visiting his spy chief, Asadullah Khalid, at an undisclosed American hospital. On Jan. 10, he’ll visit the State Department, where he will meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and attend a working dinner. On Jan. 11, he’ll visit the White House, sit down with Obama, attend a working lunch, and then participate in a joint press conference.
"This week’s visit comes at a critical moment for the two presidents to take stock on where we are in the transition and then to provide guidance going forward on a host of issues," Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said on a conference call today. "As we look to 2013, reductions in U.S. troops will continue, but they will be guided by the transition that the two leaders agree upon. Similarly, just as we’ll be discussing the 2013 transition, the two leaders will be discussing any potential support for Afghanistan from the United States beyond 2014."
The negotiations over the agreement to extend the U.S. troop presence past 2014 began last November and are being led on the U.S. side by Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) James Warlick. Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy has said that the State Department would need U.S. military troops in Afghanistan to protect the department and help it well past 2014 in a range of areas.
"Rather than developing our own capabilities, we will be depending on DOD support for functions such as a quick reaction force, personnel recovery, fuel support, explosive ordinance disposal, and medical assistance, by 2015," Kennedy said in October.
But Rhodes described the nature of the post-2014 mission in Afghanistan as more limited, and he even said there’s a possibility there will be no troops in Afghanistan after 2014 at all.
"The nature of U.S. support for Afghanistan beyond 2014 will be focused on two precise missions, training and equipping of Afghan security forces and continued efforts on the counterterrorism front against al Qaeda and their affiliates," said Rhodes. "But this is not a visit during which President Obama will be making decisions about U.S. troop levels in the immediate future or beyond 2014. It’s a visit where the two leaders will be able to consult about those issues, and then in the coming months President Obama will be able to make those decisions in consultation with his national security team."
NSC Deputy National Security Advisor Doug Lute said that the Obama-Karzai discussions will focus on the authorities, privileges, and immunities that the Afghan government might afford U.S. troops after 2014. The immunities issue is crucial because the White House cited the lack of immunities for U.S. troops in Iraq as a key reason negotiations to extend the U.S. troop presence there failed in 2011.
The Cable asked Rhodes and Lute if the U.S. government would require immunities for U.S. troops in Afghanistan to be approved by the Afghan legislature, considering that the Obama administration demanded legislative approval for immunities in the Iraq case. Rhodes and Lute declined to answer.
Rhodes and Lute also declined to confirm or deny the Fox News report that claimed outgoing ISAF Commander Gen. John Allen has submitted three recommended options for U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan post-2014, none of which would leave more than 10,000 U.S. soldiers there.
"The way the president approaches this is not aiming to keep a certain number of troops within Afghanistan," Rhodes said. "The objective of the bilateral security agreement negotiations is not to accomplish a number of U.S. troops in the country; it is to accomplish the two goals of denying a safe haven to al Qaeda and training and equipping Afghan national security forces. And there are, of course, many different ways of accomplishing those objectives, some of which might involve U.S. troops, some of which might not."
"They’re going to be talking about missions and authorities, not numbers," said Lute.
The officials will also discuss the ongoing talks among the Karzai government, the Pakistani government, and the Afghan Taliban, which are meant to pave the way for peace talks to end the war. Both officials downplayed any notion that increased Pakistani involvement means a decreased role for the United States, and they said the process must be Afghan-led.
The Cable also asked the officials if they were still working on the release of Bowe Bergdahl, the only U.S. soldier currently in the custody of the Taliban. The administration had been working on a deal to swap Bergdahl for five Taliban commanders who are being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Those negotiations broke down last March and as of October were going nowhere, according to senior Afghan officials.
"Sergeant Bergdahl’s release and safe return to his family is one of the objectives of our approach to try to get into peace talks with the Afghan Taliban," said Lute. "And these are talks that we imagine to be led by the Afghan government. So, yes, his safe return is one objective, but there are a whole list of other objectives as well that have to do with the logic of getting Afghans to talk to Afghans about the future of the country."
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| The Complex |
Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge.| The E-Ring |