Washington: A top US official is visiting Afghanistan as part of the Obama administration`s efforts to convince the Afghan leadership, including President Hamid Karzai, to sign the bilateral security agreement (BSA) as soon as possible.
"The signing of the BSA will be a part of these conversations.We`ll keep encouraging them to sign it as soon as possible," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters about the Kabul visit of the Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins.
"He`s visiting Afghanistan as part of his regular schedule of regional consultations. His discussions are going to focus on a few issues, preparations for the 2014 elections, as well as consultations following Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif`s visit to Kabul," Harf said.
Responding to questions on the upcoming general elections in Afghanistan, Harf said the US doesn`t take sides.
"It`s up to the Afghans to decide who will represent them in their elections. That`s the point of having elections. It`s for the Afghans to decide that. The US doesn`t take a position, doesn`t endorse a candidate, doesn`t endorse a party," she said.
"We believe that a peaceful and timely political transition through this kind of inclusive and credible electoral process is critical for Afghan stability and democratic development," he said adding that one of the topics Dobbins is primarily talking about are the 2014 elections preparations and helping the Afghans continue making progress.
"We`ve been very clear that even after 2014, if we conclude a BSA with Afghanistan, we`re open to keeping, you know, a small residual force there to carry out two specific and narrow missions, one of which is counter terrorism, to target the remnants of al-Qaeda and its affiliates."
"We`ve been very clear that even as the war winds down, that`s a top national security priority for us," she said.
The BSA, she said, was overwhelmingly approved by the Afghan people themselves through the Loya Jirga process, which is incredibly important, and some of Afghanistan`s neighbours have also voiced support for the deal.