KABUL - The bilateral security agreement (BSA) between the US and Afghanistan would be signed over the next weeks, an American diplomat said on Friday.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins told a news conference in Kabul the security pact should be inked before election candidates’ nominations began.
Presidential and provincial council elections are scheduled for April 2014 and the nomination process is expected to get under way in a month and half from now.
One senior Obama administration official told Pajhwok Afghan News the BSA text was ready to be signed as soon as President Hamid Karzai accorded it his consent.
The text of the pact was completed before Karzai suspended negotiations in protest against the opening of the Taliban's political office in Doha and Washington's proposal to hold direct talks with the insurgents.
Dobbins confirmed the dialogue was yet to resume formally but informal parleys were ongoing. He hoped the deal would be inked in a month or two before other important tasks, including the elections, were undertaken.
The deal provides for the continued presence of US troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, when the NATO-led combat mission is scheduled to end.
“The elections are part of our and the Afghan government’s agenda. Although we will act only as observers, the agreement should be signed,” the envoy remarked, hoped successful conduct of the polls would resolve many of Afghanistan’s problems.
US officials say there will be two limited missions for any post-2014 presence, but a decision has not been made yet. They will be counterterrorism and training and equipping Afghan forces.
"So that hasn’t changed. No decision has been made on a presence, but some progress has been made on the BSA," a spokeswoman for the State Department told reporters on Thursday.
Earlier in the week, the US diplomat met President Karzai before flying to Islamabad, where he assisted Secretary of State John Kerry at meetings with senior Pakistani officials.
Afghanistan was one of the topics discussed with Pakistani officials, said the envoy, who would share the outcome of his trip with Karzai later in the day.
While desiring robust relations with Afghanistan, the Pakistan government was eagerly awaiting President Karzai’s visit, he said. Islamabad also wants to help the Afghan-managed reconciliation process. (Pajhwok)