What progress on the post-2014 Afghan Security Agreement?

By Nigel Chamberlain, NATO Watch

Afghan President Karzai told students during a speech at Kabul University on 9 May that: “We consider our relations with the United States beyond 2014 to be positive for Afghanistan”, as he announced that he is ready to let the United States retain up to nine military bases in his country after the end of the NATO withdrawal. 

This is considered a premature announcement as negotiations on a security agreement that would allow American forces to stay beyond the end of 2014 are still on-going and it reflects the Afghan Government’s desire for a larger force than the United States may be willing to commit, currently thought to be no more than 10,000. Prior to becoming International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Commander, Gen. Dunford told the US Senate Armed Services Committee in November 2012 that the goal was to complete the talks by May 2013. “I think one of the critical lessons learned is that we need to allow sufficient time for negotiations to be complete,” he said at the time.
 
A spokesman for the US Embassy in Kabul, David Snepp, wrote in an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times: "We have not and will not comment on specifics of this ongoing negotiations”. While little has been said about the progress of negotiations, following the signing of a US-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement a year ago, it is believed that the key issues are the requirement for legal immunity from prosecution for all future US forces based in Afghanistan and an agreement for the use of Afghan bases since President Obama has made clear that the US does not seek permanent military bases. 
 
More specifically, President Karzai indicated that he would agree to the use of bases in Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and others in the north, east and south of Afghanistan. He also called for more clarity from NATO about what they planned to contribute to Afghanistan post 2014. He said that he wanted to discuss potential contributions with individual nations and an overall agreement with NATO. He added:
 
America should strengthen their efforts to bring peace, fundamentally strengthen the security forces of Afghanistan, should give us strong support in strengthening the economy of Afghanistan and rebuild our economic foundations, such as dams, electricity, roads.
 
Mr. Karzai said that recently he signed a partnership deal with Finland, which has agreed to provide $30 million in aid each year, and with Denmark, which has agreed to provide $100 million over the next five years.
 
Diplomats from the United States and Afghanistan met formally in Kabul on 11 May to try and make progress on the post-2014 security agreement. A joint statement committed both sides to job creation, economic growth and improved infrastructure for Afghanistan. It is considered the groundwork for a "sovereign, unified and democratic Afghanistan”, with "respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic values”. The next meeting is planned for October in Washington.
 
General Dunford told the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee in late April that he was cautiously optimistic that an agreement would be signed in May or June. He said:
 
The reason why the Bilateral Security Agreement is important is because our coalition partners are very much looking to the United States to lead with regard to post-2014 and they're going to need the time to generate the political will in their capitals and do the detailed budget planning just as we have to do for a post-2014 presence. And from my perspective, the Bilateral Security Agreement will be the physical manifestation of our commitment post-2014 and really form the foundation of an effective narrative.
 
The full text of the Joint Statement by Foreign Minister Dr. Rassoul and Deputy Secretary Burns on the Second Meeting of the Afghanistan-US Bilateral Commission has been published on the State Department website. They recommitted to continue high level bilateral consultations to further deepen their partnership on the basis of the Strategic Partnership Agreement.