Saturday, July 20, 2013

US rules out post-2014 presence sans BSA
There would be no American troops on the ground in Afghanistan post 2014 without the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) being signed, a top US general said the other day.
BSA negotiations suspended by President Hamid Karzai after the United States announced the opening of the Taliban’s political office in Doha and plans for direct talks between the two sides. “That's right, sir,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told Senate Armed Services Committee members, when Senator Carl Levin said any US presence after 2014 was dependent on working out a bilateral agreement with the Afghans. “I hope President Karzai is listening to that answer,” Levin said. But Dempsey, who is travelling to Afghanistan later this week, exuded confidence the BSA would be reached in time. Dempsey said the US military had made several recommendations to President Barack Obama on the residual force in Afghanistan. “We've provided several options. We've, as the Joint Chiefs, made a recommendation on the size and we've also expressed our view on when that announcement would best meet the campaign objectives.” In his remarks, Levin said while the campaign was on track to transition responsibility for the country's security to continue to draw down over the next year and a half, significant challenges remained to secure the hard-won gains. “Among those challenges is putting the US-Afghanistan partnership on a sound footing for the long term, including through the conclusion of a bilateral status of forces agreement to ensure our troops have the legal protections necessary for any post-2014 US military presence in Afghanistan,” he said. Recent statements by President Karzai had complicated negotiation of such an agreement and “I’ll be interested in what our witnesses have to say about the prospects for a successful negotiation, as well as what the status is of the efforts in Afghanistan militarily,” Levin remarked. Dempsey said Afghan security forces were on track. ISAF Commander Gen. Dunford, who hoped to achieve his campaign objectives in developing the Afghan forces, acknowledged there were potential gaps that he would like to have clarity on after the fighting season, the general concluded.

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