U.S. troops in Afghanistan may not be going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Secretary of State John Kerry announced yesterday that the U.S. and Afghanistan had finalized a bilateral security agreement that will keep troops in the Middle Eastern country until 2024. The deal is now being reviewed for approval today by an Afghan ground council of elders.
The 10-year deal will involve 8,000 to 12,000 troops that are mostly American, but a final troop member will not be established until the official NATO combat mission ends next December. However, it also includes concessions from Afghan soldiers that American soldiers will not face Afghan prosecution in the course of their duties. A draft of the agreement says that American counterterrorism operations will work with current Afghan missions and “complement and support them.”
The American troop presence will also mean that billions of dollars in international aid will continue to be provided to the Afghan government. And although it was originally reported by a senior aide to Hamid Karzai that an agreement would not be approved unless President Barack Obama admitted mistakes on the part of the U.S. throughout the 12-year war.
“President Karzai didn’t ask for an apology. There was no discussion of an apology,” said Kerry. “I mean, it’s just not even on the table.” A State Department official confirmed that Kerry and Karzai had spoken by telephone twice in the last two days in order to nail down specific details of the agreement, while Kerry said that further communication is likely in the coming days.