US seeks Bagram base under BSA: Spanta
KABUL (PAN): National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta on Saturday said the US had sought only one independent military base and up to 16,000 American troops would stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 if the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) was signed.
Briefing Wolesi Jirga -- or lower house -- members on the security pact, the presidential advisor said the US had no plan to establish military bases in Afghanistan, except the Bagram airbase in central Parwan province.
However, he said the US wanted to deploy its troops to eight areas for training Afghan forces, if Afghanistan wanted so.
Spanta said the eight areas included Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif (the capital of northern Balkh province, Jalalabad (the capital of eastern Nangarhar province), Shorabak district of southern Helmand, Gardez (the capital of southeastern Paktia province), Shindand district of western Herat province and Kandahar Airfield in southern Kandahar province.
He said the US was bound under the security deal to train and equip Afghan forces on the level of NATO member states.
Chief of Army Staff Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, who was also present at the house, said if all legal aspects of the security deal were met, the Americans would assist Afghan forces in gathering intelligence and detecting and defusing landmines and improving the artillery, engineering and air force branches.
However, President Karzai had earlier said the US had demanded nine permanent military bases from Afghanistan under the security deal, a claim later rejected by the White House, saying the US had no intention to establish permanent military bases in the country.
Spanta said Afghan and American officials held 20 meetings on the BSA over the past one year. He said both sides had reached agreement on all parts of the deal, except the issue of immunity for American troops from the Afghan law.
He said if the deal-breaking issue was resolved, 10,000 to 16,000 American troops would continue to stay in Afghanistan until 2024.
The national security advisor said the BSA had been discussed with neighbouring countries and only one of them had opposed it.
Nearly 2,500 tribal elders and influential figures have been invited to attend a Loya Jirga next Thursday to advise the government whether or not to sign the deal.
Officials say the draft of the agreement would be sent to the parliament for approval after being discussed by the Loya Jirga.
But lawmakers rejected the tribal forum as illegal, saying it usurped the parliament from its constitutional right to decide on issues of national importance.
However, Spanta said the Loya Jirga had no legal problem, saying the president could call into session the forum on key national issues, whenever he wished so.
“In President and my view no organ can usurp the authority of the parliament,” said Spanta, who explained under the BSA, both countries were required to respect each other’s sovereignty, constitution, religion and cultural values.
He said US forces could not conduct unilateral and unauthorised operations or detain and prosecute Afghans under the accord. He said the deal had 26 articles and the 13th article was about jurisdiction over the American troops.
The advisor said the US had been insisting American troops found guilty of committing crimes should be taken to home country for prosecution.
“We have not discussed this point and there has been no agreement on this so far,” said Spanta, who continued if US civilians or contractors committed a crime, Afghan courts would decide their fate.
And if an American soldier committed a crime, he would not be able to evade punishment, he said, explaining the accused soldier would be tried in the presence of Afghan representatives, everywhere the trial took place.
Spanta said the Article 6 was about foreign aggression against Afghanistan, saying both sides had agreed to jointly fight foreign aggressors threatening Afghanistan’s soil and political stability.
He said both countries would work jointly on diplomatic, military and economic fronts in case of a foreign aggression.
He said the BSA would last for a decade (2014-2024) and each side deciding to scrap the deal has to inform the other two years in advance.
Spanta said signing the BSA was in the interest of Afghanistan because it would provide legal cover to Kabul-Washington relations.
Second deputy speaker Mohammad Saleh Saljoqi, who presided over the session, said the agreement would be worthy of implementation until it went through all legal phases.
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