Washington: President Barack Obama said the US will continue to respect "Afghan sovereignty" under a new security agreement.
Obama, in a letter sent yesterday to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, also said the US military will not conduct raids on Afghan homes except under "extraordinary circumstances" involving urgent risks to US nationals. The raids have been a particularly sensitive issue to the Afghans.
Obama`s letter came a day after Karzai and Secretary of State John Kerry agreed to a new security framework that would govern the relationship between their countries after the US-led combat mission formally concludes at the end of next year. It could clear the way for thousands of US troops to train and assist Afghan forces after the mission ends.
The agreement announced yesterday is far from complete. The document now goes to the Loya Jirga, a 2,500-member council of elders that has the right to revise or reject any clause of the draft agreement.
Karzai added a wrinkle to the process today when he told the Loya Jirga that if they and parliament approve the agreement it should be signed after next spring`s elections in Afghanistan.
Karzai`s abrupt decision to defer signing the agreement until after the April 5 elections came even as he said he supported the Bilateral Security Agreement in a speech to the Loya Jirga.
Such a development could be a potential deal breaker as the United States has said it wants an agreement as soon as possible to allow planners in the United States and NATO to prepare for a military presence after 2014. The US had wanted a deal signed by the end of October.
In his letter to Karzai, Obama wrote, "We look forward to completing this agreement promptly."
On the US side, only the Obama administration needs to approve the agreement, but it could reject changes made by Afghan officials. If it does, that leaves open the option for the US to pull all troops out of Afghanistan.
The agreement would give the US a legal basis for having forces in Afghanistan after 2014, and also allow it to use bases across the country.