BSA essential for post-2014 presence: Levin
WASHINGTON (PAN): In the absence of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), the United States would have difficulties in keeping its troops in Afghanistan and providing financial assistance, a top American senator said on Friday.
But Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, exuded confidence during a meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) -- a Washington based think-tank -- that the much-awaited agreement would be signed soon.
"We can't stay if there is no BSA. We can’t put our forces to risk. It is likely that we will get the BSA. There are a couple of issues that still need to be resolved. If it does not happen and if we fall back, there is a greater chance that we fall back on a society that we don’t want," he cautioned.
Fresh from a recent visit to Afghanistan, Levin stressed it is essential to sign the deal before President Hamid Karzai left office. The US did not want it to be an issue during the upcoming Afghan presidential election campaign, he remarked.
The lawmaker expected a US-NATO presence of 8,000 to 12,000 troops after 2014, when foreign combat soldiers would leave the country. President Obama had not decided yet on the troop number, he explained, saying there was no chances of keeping 20,000 troops in Afghanistan.
"We need a BSA for our troops to be able to stay. We hope to be able to do that, reach that soon. This is important. We do not want to go back to an Afghanistan controlled and ruled by Taliban," the senator continued.
The security situation from the military perspective had significantly improved and US commanders were surprised how well the Afghan forces had done, Levin said as he stressed Washington's goal should be to train Afghan forces and leave the country.
Highly critical of Karzai's recent statements on US and NATO forces allegedly colliding with the Taliban, Levin said the president seemed to be isolated in his own country.
Appreciative of the progress made in Afghanistan, he said things had significantly improved, changed for the better in the last 10-year period. Changes were particularly striking and the country more secure, he noted.
While praising the growth and strength of the Afghan army and police, he admitted: "Taliban are a resilient force and should not be underestimated."
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