BSA to pave way for SOFA signing: Pentagon
WASHINGTON (PAN): The Pentagon on Monday said the bilateral security agreement (BSA) would pave the way for a signing of status of forces agreement (SOFA) by NATO, which would finally lead to a determination of US and NATO forces presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
“The US would sign the BSA with Afghanistan. NATO would sign the Afghanistan-NATO SOFA,” a Pentagon official said. “The BSA is also a status of forces agreement, but its terms only apply to US forces,” the official added.
“For NATO, the BSA is the first link in the chain that secures NATO's post-2014 partnership. Conclusion of the BSA opens the door for negotiation of the Afghanistan-NATO SOFA. In turn, conclusion of that SOFA would enable NATO members and partners to finalize their approval of NATO's post-2014 mission,” the official said.
The clarification came after a Pentagon spokesperson told reporters that BSA would be followed by a SOFA, which would finally pave the way for determination of US forces in Afghanistan.
“BSA has to get signed. And then once the BSA is [signed], then we can begin discussions and finalization of the SOFA agreement. They're two separate things. And then once the SOFA agreement is settled, we're then able to begin dealing with troop numbers,” the Pentagon spokesman, US Army Col Steve Warren, said.
“We want BSA to be signed as quickly as possible. Certainly by the end of the year. If it is not signed very quickly, we will be forced to begin planning for an Afghanistan that has no US presence after 2014,” Warren, told reporters during an off camera news conference.
“There is a series of events that have to happen once the BSA is signed,” he said. “Once the BSA is in place then we can begin discussions and finalization of the SOFA agreement. Once the SOFA agreement is settled, we are then able to begin dealing with troop numbers. The longer we wait, each one of these in the chain of events is going to take time,” he said in response to a question.
Warren clarified the actual troop numbers would be the third and last part of this chain. “We have not set the date yet when we need to begin planning for no troops in Afghanistan post 2014,” he said.
“And December 31st is not a hard and fast date. We have said repeatedly that we would like to see the BSA sign immediately because there are so many things that has to happen after it. We have not set a hard and fast date,” he said.
The BSA, he said, establishes US presence in Afghanistan post 2014. “The SOFA gets into the details of how US forces are expected to conduct themselves, how legal parameters there are surrounding forces are on the ground, gets into a lot of legal details.
“These are complex issues that take time. Negotiations take time. That’s why it is critical that the BSA is signed as quickly as possible,” Warren said in response to a question.
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