Of all the people who would demand a full US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai would seemingly be one of the last. Karzai’s installation as president after his career at Unocal and subsequent protection was due to US military force. Without the US military Karzai would likely not have remained president, possibly even alive. And yet, his intransigence may lead to total pullout of forces at the end of this year.

Like with the Iraqi government, American forces being within the country is so toxic even those Afghan politicians who have benefited want to distance themselves.

Nato defence ministers will meet this week to discuss its future military presence in Afghanistan as Barack Obama weighs whether to order the Pentagon to begin preparations for a total withdrawal of all US forces at the end of this year.

The crunch meeting in Brussels on Wednesday comes amid growing acceptance in Washington that Afghan president Hamid Karzai is unlikely to sign a bilateral security agreement (BSA) finalised last November for a residual US security force to remain after the bulk of its troops pull out in 2014.

Though Karzai came to power through the barrel of a US gun and was maintained as president under suspect elections by American power, he will apparently respect term limits and leave this year. But after he leaves there may not be enough time to negotiate a new agreement and at the end of 2014 US and NATO forces might simply pack up and go.

The so-called “zero option” may become a reality.

As a result, the White House has been considering whether to order to its military commanders to include the so-called “zero option” in its planning scenarios, according to a senior official speaking on background.

Though symbolic to the extent that Pentagon planners have long looked at a range of possible options for troop numbers, the formal order to plan for a full withdrawal would mark a significant escalation in the US war of words with Karzai.

Though it may be some bluff to scare President Karzai and his merry band of corrupt officials in Kabul, the existence of such a “zero option” plan gives anti-war activists serious leverage. The Pentagon will no longer have the defense of saying they never prepared for a full pullout. They have prepared and that is exactly what the American people want them to do.

The US has already spent 13 years in Afghanistan, losing over 2000 lives and hundreds of billions of dollars with no real achievement to speak of.

Photo by US military under public domain.