Hagel insists on troops' protection, rights
"I as secretary of defense could not recommend to the president to go forward," Hagel told reporters in Nova Scotia, Canada, referring to ongoing BSA discussions at the consultative Loy Jirga in Kabul.
If the United States was going to continue to be asked as a result of a mutual agreement to play a role in Afghanistan, then the leaders of his country had to be assured there would be protection for them, as they conducted a mutually agreed mission, Hagel said.
"I think that's pretty clear. I've made that pretty clear. The president of the United States has made that very clear. President Obama has said that. So I am hopeful that we will work through this," he added.
He hoped the BSA would be recommended with the text that President Karzai and Secretary of State John Kerry agreed to last week, ensuring the protection of US forces. He was confident that recommendation would be made by the jirga, Karzai would send it to the parliament for ratification and would sign it.
Hagel denied he had set any deadline for signing the BSA. "We continue to work with President Karzai and his government. Afghanistan is a sovereign nation. We respect that sovereignty. And if there is to be an agreement going forward with a post-2014 relationship, that bilateral security agreement must be in force before certainly we can plan as to what kind of mission would we have..."
But without a clear understanding in an agreement, it would very difficult for the US and its allies to plan an acceptable role if the Afghan people wanted them, what that would require in terms of men and women to conduct the mission, he maintained.
"So we need a clear understanding of what is the relationship and what do the Afghan people want us to help them with before we can commit. But that decision and what commitments are not Secretary of Defense's commitments. Those will be President Obama's and that's as it should be in elected democracy," Hagel concluded.
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