Now that U.S. and Afghan negotiators have agreed on terms of a seemingly open-ended -- if reduced -- U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, Afghan president Hamid Karzai and the Obama administration alike breathlessly await the verdict of the world's greatest deliberative body.
No, not the U.S. Senate -- the "loya jirga."
It is alarming to realize that this treaty renewing America's military commitment to Afghanistan under wholly disastrous terms for the United States seems to hinge on the say-so of some 3,000 "village elders" now gathered in Kabul -- and not, apparently, that of our own elected representatives. News reports consistently underscore the official focus on the coming decision from the "loya jirga" (that world-renowned embodiment of sharia justice and tribal enlightenment) without mentioning deliberations to come in the U.S. Congress.
"We have agreed on the language that would be submitted to a loya jirga, but they have to pass it," Secretary of State John Kerry said.
They have to pass it? The Associated Press puts it this way: "The U.S. declined to release specific details about the negotiations and stressed nothing was final until the gathering known as the loya jirga makes its decision."
What does our Constitution say? Yes, the president "shall have Power ... to make Treaties," but "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate ... provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur." To date, however, just five senators -- Democrats Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- have heard this constitutional call of duty. They support an amendment to require the president to win approval from Congress on this new defense pact with Afghanistan.
This amendment should pass unanimously, unless, that is, the Senate wants to relinquish all powers to an increasingly dictatorial executive branch, and, more urgently, wants to see all powers of the U.S. military subordinated to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
This, according to the agreement posted online this week by the Afghan foreign ministry, is the essence of the pact. (That's why I'm betting the loya jirga votes aye.) The U.S. State Department calls this online document a "draft," but given that deliberations are underway in Kabul, it seems logical to presume that this same "draft" is now under loya jirga consideration.
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