BSA needed to protect soldiers: US general
WASHINGTON (PAN): The United States needed the bilateral security agreement (BSA) to protect its soldiers in the country, a top American general told lawmakers on Thursday.
The presence of US soldiers along with a strong Afghan security force was essential for lasting peace and security in the country, General Raymond Odierno, Army Chief of Staff,
"We need the BSA to protect our soldiers. And once we get -- soldiers, sailors Air, and Marines that are operating there. And that allows them to do their job and continue supporting the Afghan," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said.
He told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing the Pentagon would decide on the post-2014 presence only after the BSA was signed. "First, until we get the BSA approved, that's when we'll start discussing what the end strength is post-2014.
"We are certainly hopeful we will get that agreement with the Afghan government that allows our soldiers, sailors, air and marines (to) continue to operate in Afghanistan," the general added.
He believed incredible progress was being made in Afghanistan, with local forces taking over the security responsibility. But it was important the international forces stayed with them. he stressed.
"As we make decisions on residual forces, there comes a time when if we get too small and our ability to protect our own forces is at risk. Then we have to make sure we communicate that to the president and joint chiefs had these discussions. We will communicate that as we move forward," the general continued.
Odierno explained Afghan security forces were stepping up in a big way to support their own people, but they were not ready to completely do that on their own. “We have to provide new kinds of support, training, advising, building their institutions, making sure they continue to move forward, because there are those that want to go back and take control and there are extremist organizations that will directly threaten the United States,” he said.
Odierno said the US was ahead of its metrics of success, turning over responsibility to the Afghans in really over 90 percent of all of Afghanistan. There were only a few places where they had not taken complete control of their security, he concluded.
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