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Kerry: US, Afghanistan agree on pact language

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington. Kerry says the U.S. and Afghanistan have reached an agreement on the final language of a bilateral security agreement. The agreement will govern the presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends next year. Kerry said Wednesday that he had spoken with Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier in the day. The proposed agreement will be placed before a gathering of Afghan elders on Thursday. AP photo

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington. Kerry says the U.S. and Afghanistan have reached an agreement on the final language of a bilateral security agreement. The agreement will govern the presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends next year. Kerry said Wednesday that he had spoken with Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier in the day. The proposed agreement will be placed before a gathering of Afghan elders on Thursday. AP photo

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. and Afghanistan have agreed on the language of a bilateral security pact that could clear the way for thousands of U.S. troops to train and assist Afghan forces after the NATO combat mission ends in 2014.

The document now goes to the Loya Jirga, a 3,000-member council of elders that has the right to revise or reject any clause of the draft agreement. It then goes to the Afghan parliament, which could make still more changes before the agreement is approved.

On the U.S. side, only the Obama administration needs to approve the agreement, but it could reject changes made by Afghan officials.

The agreement would give the U.S. a legal basis for having forces in Afghanistan after 2014, and also allow it to use bases across the country. U.S. officials have said the U.S. and NATO could keep between 8,000 and 12,000 troops there. Of those, the U.S. is expected to provide no more than 8,000. Kerry said the role of the U.S. military would be “limited.”

“It is entirely train, equip and assist. There is no combat role for United States forces, and the bilateral security agreement is a way to try to clarify for Afghans and for United States military forces exactly what the rules are with respect to that ongoing relationship,” he said.

Karzai’s office posted a copy of the draft proposal on its website on Wednesday. According to the draft, the agreement gives the U.S. legal jurisdiction over troops and Defense Department civilians, while contractors would be subject to the Afghan judicial process. The pact also provides for U.S. counterterrorism operations in coordination with the Afghans, with the goal that Afghan forces should be in the lead. It also notes that U.S. troops will not conduct combat operations unless they are “mutually agreed” on by the U.S. and Afghans.

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