WASHINGTON, Nov 21: A bilateral security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan does not endorse the Afghan demand for joint actions against military aggression by other nations, specifically Pakistan.
A draft of the agreement, posted on the official website of the Afghan Foreign Ministry, only says that the United States will regard any external aggression with “grave concern” and will “strongly oppose” military threats or force against Afghanistan after 2014.
The United States plans to withdraw most of its combat troops from Afghanistan by 2014. Under the bilateral agreement, 8,000 to 12,000 US troops will remain in Afghanistan till 2024. They will participate in counter-terrorism operations, conduct search operations and will also train Afghan defence forces.
When negotiations on the security agreement began, President Hamid Karzai demanded a full-fledged defence treaty, with the US obliged to respond militarily to aggression by other nations, specifically Pakistan.
Although the draft says that the two countries “agree to consult on mutual responses to external aggression,” it excludes the Afghan demand.
On Wednesday night, US Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced in Washington that the United States and Afghanistan had reached an agreement on a security partnership which would allow American troops to stay in the country after 2014. But he refused to disclose the details.
“As we sit here tonight, we have agreed on the language that would be submitted to a Loya Jirga, but they have to pass it,” Secretary Kerry told a news briefing in Washington. “So I think it’s inappropriate for me to comment at all on any of the details. It’s up to the people of Afghanistan.”
Secretary Kerry also rejected a claim by a senior Afghan official that US President Barack Obama had agreed to apologise to the Afghan people over civilian deaths in Nato military raids. The aide said that Mr Karzai demanded the apology when he spoke to Mr Kerry on Tuesday and the secretary accepted his demand.
“President Karzai didn’t ask for an apology. There was no discussion of an apology,” Mr Kerry said. “I mean, it’s just not even on the table.”
While the secretary did not disclose details of the deal, the US media on Thursday quoted unnamed administration officials as saying that 8,000 to 12,000 mostly American troops will stay in Afghanistan till 2024.
The media reported that “this was the last sticking point in negotiations” but the Afghans accepted the US demand after Washington made it clear that it would deploy its troops in Afghanistan without this guarantee.
Although the Afghan government had earlier rejected the demand for allowing US troops to conduct search operations and make arrests, the draft posted on the official Afghan website indicated that they are willing to allow both.
The United States, however, has made it clear that without a bilateral security agreement, billions of dollars in annual military and development aid to Afghanistan would be at risk.
Other Nato nations have also said that they would make no post-2014 commitments to Afghanistan while some aid agencies probably would cut back operations because of security concerns.
According to the draft, the United States has the right to deploy American forces on nine bases, including the two biggest, the airfields in Bagram and Kandahar. US military planes can fly in and out of Afghanistan from seven air bases, including Kabul International Airport.
US forces can transport supplies from five border crossings, described along with the air bases as “official points of embarkation and debarkation”.
All bases in Afghanistan would revert to Afghan ownership and sovereignty after 2014.