— U.S. and NATO officials say they are confident Afghanistan will accept a security agreement ahead of next year's pullout of NATO troops from the country.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel came to NATO headquarters with a call for Afghanistan to work swiftly - to approve the deal that will set the rules governing the presence of U.S. forces after the 2014 withdrawal.
Afghan troops sustained losses averaging 100 soldiers killed per week at the peak of combat missions in 2013.
But U.S. officials, speaking on the sidelines here at NATO, say that number has tapered off recently and say Afghan leaders need to sustain the gains by approving the security agreement and putting in place conditions to ensure peace in the country after NATO troops depart.
Violence like this suicide bomb attack on a residential compound in the outskirts of Kabul last week is a sign of what NATO officials say could be an especially violent winter - as militants step up high-profile attacks in an effort to scare the population into opposing any foreign troop presence after 2014.
It is now up to Afghan tribal leaders and the Afghan parliament to approve the deal. Those debates are expected in November.
A key sticking point is the firm U.S. demand to retain legal jurisdiction over U.S. troops so they would not be subject to prosecution under Afghan laws.
An agreement is necessary before the U.S. can decide how many, if any, U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014.