Secretary of State John Kerry announced Wednesday that he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have reached an agreement on a vital Afghanistan security deal.
The negotiations surrounded the presence and status of U.S. troop forces in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 withdrawal deadline set by President Obama.
The two national leaders are still pursuing the approval of tribal elders for the document, which is not yet signed by them.The document will be presented and framework highlighted at a meeting with tribal elders in order to obtain their approval on Thursday.
“I’m pleased to say that in a series of conversations with President Karzai over the course of this morning … that we reached an agreement as to the final language of the bilateral security agreement,” Kerry announced.
Kerry, however, did deny that there was any “apology” in the works, referring to reports on Tuesday that as part of the deal, President Obama would have to send a letter to the people of Afghanistan acknowledging certain “mistakes” that were made.
Some experts and officials have suggested that there may have to be a letter at least, but Secretary Kerry rejected the idea that any part of the deal would constitute an apology.
“Let me be clear: President Karzai didn’t ask for an apology. There was no discussion of an apology. There will — there is no — I mean, it’s not even on the table. He didn’t ask for it, we’re not discussing it,” Kerry said.
Again, the deal is still not finalized by either tribal leaders. Approval by the traditional council of 3,000 prominent Afghans, known as the Loya Jirga, is far from guaranteed. According to the laws, the tribe leaders can revise or flat-out reject any clause of the draft agreement, and a flat-out rejection would most likely prevent the Afghanistan government from even signing the then worthless agreement.
“We have agreed on the language that would be submitted to the Loya Jirga, but they have to pass it,” Kerry said.
The point of contention has been proposal of Afghan jurisdiction over U.S. troops, something that has never been in contest in prior wars with prior administrations. The Afghans wanted to try U.S. troops in Afghanistan if they commit a crime, something the U.S. has ruled out in the past, and continues to do so.
Night raids were also a sticking point for Afghani officials, which the details of what U.S. forces will be allowed to do if they remain after 2014 is still very much controversial.
U.S. officials have yet to even disclose the number of U.S. troops they want to keep in Afghanistan post-2014, but Kerry said the role of the U.S. military would be “limited.”
“It is entirely train, equip and assist. There is no combat role for United States forces, and the bilateral security agreement is a way to try to clarify for Afghans and for United States military forces exactly what the rules are with respect to that ongoing relationship,” Secretary Kerry said.