— Afghan and U.S. officials are to meet in Kabul Thursday to hammer out a post-2014 security pact outlining the role the United States will play in Afghanistan's security once international combat forces leave the country. Afghans are pushing the U.S. to remain a long-term partner, but with limits.
There is a lot of uncertainty about what will happen in Afghanistan after international combat forces pull out at the end of 2014. Much of the concern is about how the Afghan government and security forces will deal with militants and neighbors Pakistan and Iran, and what role the United States will continue to play.
In May this year, Washington signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement
with Kabul that could keep a contingent of American troops in Afghanistan after 2014 as advisors and trainers. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Musazai says the upcoming talks will focus on the specifics of long-term security cooperation between the two countries.
He says the main propose of the security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States of America is to determine the number and main mission of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 2014, as well as security and military cooperation between two countries after 2014, within the framework of the Strategic Partnership.
Discussion points will likely include the location and number of bases, and the sensitive question of legal jurisdiction over the remaining in-country U.S. personnel. Washington has emphasized that any crimes committed should be tried in the United States.
Past actions by U.S. soldiers -- such as the alleged killing of 16 civilians by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, and burnings of the Quran -- have infuriated Afghans. President Hamid Karzai is under pressure to insist that any remaining U.S. military personnel may be prosecuted in local courts.
Failure to strike a similar deal on immunity for U.S. troops in Iraq essentially ended the American military presence in that country.
The U.S. has declared Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally, a fact that former military and intelligence officer Jawed Kohistani hopes will mean the security agreement will ensure the U.S. will defend Afghanistan from outside interference, particularly from its neighbors Pakistan and Iran.
"If we are attacked from outside our borders, the United States should come and defend this territory," Kohistani said. "When other intelligence services are involved here, they should provide strong intelligence support to Afghans, and if there are spies in our government from other countries, they should remove them and also support the NDS [Afghan intelligence service], and take more actions against neighboring intelligence services."
Pakistan has been accused of not doing enough to eliminate militant groups inside its borders, such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that has carried out large-scale attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces.
A Haqqani leader this week said his group would be willing to negotiate a peace settlement if the Taliban were to take the lead. But reconciliation talks with the Taliban, which remains resilient across much of southern and eastern Afghanistan, stalled out earlier this year.
On Tuesday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a rocket attack in Kabul that hit an area near the city's international airport and close to a private TV station, killing one and injuring several others.
In Pakistan, Afghanistan's High Peace Council has been talking with senior Pakistani military and government officials to break the deadlock over negotiations with the Taliban. Pakistan said it had agreed to release several Taliban detainees, a move Afghans see as a way to bring the Taliban to the table.
The US-Afghan talks are expected to continue for months.