White House wants deal inked this year
WASHINGTON (PAN): The Obama administration on Thursday said it wanted the bilateral security agreement (BSA) to be signed this year, saying the deal was essential to ensure smooth transition and plans for the post-2014 scenario.
As the White House passionately argued the case for BSA signing this year, Special US Representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins warned that “delaying the signing” to April would make more difficult America’s commitment to Afghanistan.
“Delaying the signing to April will make it much more difficult for us to make our commitments. It will make it … virtually impossible for other countries to make their commitments. I think it will have a long-term deleterious impact on the scale of international assistance to Afghanistan,” Dobbins told a news channel.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters it was important for the Afghan government to get the agreement approved and signed by the end of the year. “That’s for a very practical reason, which is a NATO presence in Afghanistan.”
The United States needed to conduct some planning, both internally and with its allies, to coordinate what their post-2014 presence would look like, he said.
Both White House and Dobbins hoped the Loya Jirga and then the Afghan parliament would approve the BSA text that had been agreed by the governments of the United States and Afghanistan.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the US was still seeking clarity on the meaning and intention of the specific reported comments by President Hamid Karzai.
“Our team has been in touch with the Afghan team on the ground, not specifically with President Karzai, at this point. Broadly speaking, when we signed the strategic partnership agreement last year, both countries committed to concluding the BSA within one year,” she recalled.
“We, of course, know the math. That window is this month, and we believe that signing the BSA sooner rather than later is essential to give Afghans certainty about their future before the upcoming elections, and enable the United States and other partners to plan for a US presence after 2014,” Psaki continued.
Dobbins said no decision had been made on the numbers of US troops in Afghanistan post 2014. “We do intend that we would probably the largest contributor in an allied force. The force would be in a non-combat role, train, assist and advise.”
There would also be a small American counterterrorism force that would be stationed in Afghanistan, but the bulk of troops would be in the train-advise-assist role and it would be a NATO force, with the United States as the largest single contributor, Dobbins concluded.
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