Washington: US wants Afghanistan to sign the bilateral security agreement (BSA) by the end of this year to ensure smooth post 2014 transition, a top presidential aide has said.
"It is important for the Afghan government to get this agreement approved and signed by the end of the year. And that’s for a very practical reason, which is the presence of NATO right now in Afghanistan.
"So the United States needs to conduct some planning, both internally but also with our allies, to coordinate what our post-2014 presence would look like," White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Thursday.
The United States is pleased that an agreement about the text of that bilateral security agreement has been reached, he said.
The BSA is being presented to the Loya Jirga and the next step in this process is for the Loya Jirga to confirm or to approve that agreement.
"The text of that agreement respects the security and sovereignty of both the Afghan people, but it’s also in the best national security interests of the United States of America. So that text is the product of a lot of hard work," he said.
"When (Afghan) President (Hamid) Karzai was here at the White House at the beginning of this year, there was a lot of discussion about the feasibility of a bilateral security agreement, and whether or not that was something that could be agreed to between the two parties," he said.
"What’s important now is for that agreement to be approved and signed by the Afghans as soon as possible. We’re bumping up against a deadline here that has been at the forefront of the policymaking apparatus here at the White House, particularly when it comes to our foreign policy, and that is specifically the end of the war in Afghanistan in 2014," he said.
"So it is important for this security agreement to be approved and signed by the end of this year so that preparations can start being made to plan for the post-2014 presence that the United States may have in Afghanistan," Earnest said.
Earnest said the decision on the number of troops in Afghanistan would be taken by US President Barack Obama.
"That’s a decision that the President has not yet made. We’ve not yet determined whether or not a troop presence will continue in Afghanistan," he said.
Earnest said post-2104 the US would have a very specific mission in Afghanistan.
"Because the war will have ended, we will not be in a situation in which servicemen and women are patrolling villages in Afghanistan. That mission will be focused on counterterrorism, fighting the remnants of al Qaeda that does persist in Afghanistan that continues to pose a threat to the United States and our allies," he argued.
"The second aspect of that mission will be training the Afghan National Security Forces, ensuring they have the professionalism and skills that are necessary to carry that fight and to protect their country, and to ensure the security of their country," he said.
This narrowly defined mission that involves counterterrorism and training is something that we anticipate would not require a 10-year presence of troops. "It wouldn`t take that long," he added.