A top Afghan official says the United States is promising to help defend Afghanistan for at least the next decade after Afghan forces formally take full control of their country's security in 2014.
Afghan National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta shared the terms of the proposed U.S.-Afghan strategic deal with the country's parliament Monday. The draft agreement was signed a day earlier by Spanta and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
Spanta said that under the proposed deal, both sides could even agree to extend U.S. military assistance past a negotiated 2024 cut-off.
The eight-part pact covers a wide range of issues, including economic, social and political dealings between the U.S. and Afghanistan once all international combat troops leave the country in 2014. However, Spanta told lawmakers that U.S. and Afghan officials agreed to take out the issue of U.S. bases, calling it "complicated" at this time.
He said both sides agreed to negotiate a new deal within the next year outlining the number of U.S. bases and troops, as well as their responsibilities past 2014.
The draft strategic agreement now heads to President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai for review, as well as the U.S. Congress and Afghan parliament.
On Monday, Karzai's Cabinet issued a statement calling the agreement a "crucial document" for a bilateral partnership between "two independent and equal states."
U.S. officials say Obama expects to sign the document before a NATO summit in Chicago next month.
U.S. and Afghan officials were able to finalize the draft after the United States agreed to Afghanistan's demand for full control over the U.S.-run Bagram prison and allowed Afghan forces to take the lead on controversial special forces night raids against Taliban insurgents.
Karzai also has said he wants a written commitment of $2 billion a year from the United States after the withdrawal.
U.S. officials said they could pay up to about $4 billion a year to fund Afghan forces. But they added that the strategic pact is not meant to be a detailed aid package, but rather a broad framework committing both sides to continue to work together for years to come.
Paraag Shukla with the Institute for the Study of War also says that the agreement will send a strong message to both Iran and Pakistan that the United States will maintain an enduring presence in Afghanistan - contrary to those countries' wishes.
Shukla said this agreement is important as a "symbolic message" to the region that the United States is not going to walk away from Afghanistan.