The Lower House of the Afghan Parliament (Wolesi Jirga) is due to vote on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Kabul and Washington and the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) next week, reports Khaama Press.
Transcripts of the two agreements are currently being reviewed by members of the Afghan parliamentary commission on international relations.
The BSA was formally signed by US ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham and national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar on 30 September. The SOFA was also signed on the same day.
The two agreements will pave the way for the presence of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Two NATO member states, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, have recently indicated that they will participate in the new post-2014 mission.
A total of 110 members of Bulgaria's armed forces will take part in the new NATO-led Resolute Support mission, which aims to train, advise and assist the Afghan national security forces.The Czech defence ministry said that up to 350 soldiers will be deployed in Afghanistan in 2015 and 2016 as part of that mission. The intention to conduct a new non-military NATO mission in Afghanistan was announced at the NATO Summit in Chicago in 2012 and re-affirmed at the Wales Summit in September this year.
Shorab base, the largest International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base in Helmand province, is scheduled to be turned over to Afghan security forces later this week, according to an announcement by Afghan and ISAF officials. Only one NATO battalion is expected to remain at the base after the handover.
Meanwhile, reports indicate that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is at an all-time high. Curtailing poppy production in Afghanistan was a major strategic objective for international forces in Afghanistan over the last 13 years. The United States alone spent $7.6 billion on such efforts. According to a report released on 21 October by the US Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), based on data from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, poppy cultivation increased to 209,000 hectares in 2013, passing the previous record of 193,000 which was set in 2007. The US Embassy in Kabul described the news as “disappointing” and hoped that the new Afghan government under President Ashraf Ghani would take measures to make Afghanistan a leader in counter-narcotics. Afghanistan continues to produce over 80 percent of the world’s opium.