WASHINGTON - The United States will maintain a presence in Afghanistan post 2014, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel informed lawmakers, as negotiations on the bilateral security agreement reportedly entered a final phase.
“The president has made it very clear that we are transitioning out of a lead combat role in Afghanistan to a post-2014 role and we will have a presence in Afghanistan. He has said that. That's his policy,” Hagel told legislators during a Congressional hearing.
Hagel’s remarks are indicative of the Obama administration having given up the zero option and talking with NATO partners on their presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
Meanwhile, diplomatic sources familiar with BSA talks told Pajhwok Afghan News the two sides had established several working groups to look into the various critical aspects of the American presence post 2014.
Some of the working groups include those related to air-space management, bases, telecommunications, transit and exit routes. Without giving details, one official said the international training mission was expected to be around 20,000.
Similarly, the counter-terrorism component is likely to be a couple of thousands. However, the official cautioned against arriving at any definite conclusion on the number of troops, arguing a final decision could be taken only at the highest level.
Sources believed the BSA would be inked before the November deadline. The pact will come along with an attachment document related to its implementation. The two countries have agreed to constitute a joint committee.
On the controversial issue of immunity for US forces in Afghanistan after 2014, the official said Kabul had been insisting that it would not compromise on its sovereignty. As such hectic efforts are on to find a way out so that Afghan sovereignty is not compromised.
Asserting that the BSA was in its final stages, officials said the technical aspect of the agreement was almost over. In the next phase, it will be brought before a Loya Jirga, whose recommendations will be incorporated in the final text before it is signed. (Pajhwok)