U.S.-Afghan Agreement Remains a Priority
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2014 Defense officials continue to urge Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, Pentagon press secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.
“We continue to believe it would be enormously helpful to have a bilateral security agreement as soon as possible,” Kirby said during a Pentagon news conference.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said he would like to have the agreement signed by an upcoming NATO Defense Ministerial. “That meeting is next week,” Kirby said.
Karzai has said he will leave it to his successor to sign the document, which if done soon will allow for the United States and other NATO nations to plan for Operation Resolute Support - the train, advise and assist mission that is set to begin Jan. 1. 2015. Without an agreement “we’re going to have to start planning for a complete withdrawal, but we’re not at that point right now,” Kirby said.
Pentagon officials are also studying a Center for Naval Analysis report commissioned by the Defense Department that concludes the Taliban will strengthen after the NATO combat mission ends, and that the Afghan military should be larger than currently projected.
“One of the reasons why the alliance is interested in the resolute support mission post-2014 is to help improve the capabilities of the Afghan national security forces,” the admiral said in response to questions about the report’s conclusions. “It’s a commitment we made long ago. It’s a commitment we’re trying to make now on the ground in Afghanistan to improve their capacity and capability.”
Afghan forces are in the lead for combat operations throughout the country, the admiral said. They – and NATO – never dismiss the Taliban insurgency or the threat the Taliban pose not just to the United States and its allies, but to the Afghan people.
The CNA report will inform DOD leaders as the mission continues, Kirby said.