The two Afghani presidential candidates, who a few weeks ago, were at each other’s throats, now stood shoulder to shoulder when Afghanistan signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States and NATO. President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Tuesday oversaw the long-awaited agreement that will allow US presence in Afghanistan to continue till at least 2016. The frantic efforts of Senator John Kerry to patch together an Afghani government have paid off. The Afghanis will continue to handle all combat operations, as they have been doing since June last year, but the 9, 800 US troops will also remain to provide training, intelligence, and will carry out limited support and counterterrorism operations. For many Afghanis this is a relief; it represents a mending of the frayed ties with the US under former president Hamid Karazi. It also ensures significant financial aid and some faith that the government will not succumb to the Taliban threat. Considering the recent rampage in Iraq after a hasty US withdrawal, it’s not hard to see their fear. Yet this agreement was the sticking point between Karazi and Washington; for two years he opposed it, despite the fact that a majority of the government wanted this. What in this agreement might have prompted Karazi to state that “it is against Afghanistan’s interest”?

For one, the agreement precludes any meaningful dialogue with the Taliban, who views it as continued foreign occupation; as long as the US remains, the Taliban will be irked. Secondly, US detention facilities and legal immunity to US forces, albeit reduced, remain, ensuring that the much hated and seldom legal secret operations will continue. Most importantly, 7 military bases including the large Bagram airbase will remain under US control, allowing them to maintain a military presence in the area. The critics of the deal point to these facts to indicate that Afghani sovereignty is severely threatened. It is true that a large foreign presence inside your nation is irksome, but the events in Iraq and Syria should inform us that a much more pragmatic approach to sovereignty is needed now, instead of the rhetoric of pure, textbook sovereignty. Especially since that sovereignty is hard to exercise if the country is under constant pressure from insurgency.