U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Wednesday he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai finalized a security deal that would define the role of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
Kerry said the final language of the deal details a limited role for U.S. troops, including training, equipping and assisting Afghan forces, but it doesn't include an active combat role. (Via Fox News)
Although the deal must still be approved by Afghanistan's loya jirga — or grand assembly — and details have not been disclosed, NBC reports the deal could extend at least to 2024. Afghan officials told NBC they want up to 15,000 troops to remain while U.S. officials mentioned around half that number — 8,000 troops. (Via Afghanistan Government Media & Information Center)
A large part of the agreement includes a provision that gives the U.S. legal military jurisdiction over its forces, or, as some have put it, immunity from Afghan law.
According to The Washington Post, U.S. officials have said an immunity clause was imperative for keeping troops in Afghanistan. At least one member of the loya jirga told The Post he will seek to have that clause removed, though the decision is ultimately up to the Loya Jirga as a whole.
Another contentious issue discussed in the security negotiations is whether U.S. troops may conduct raids on Afghan homes, mainly in self defense.
"For example, if they were on a base and they heard that somebody was about to attack that base, under the Karzai rules, they wouldn't be able to launch a preemptive strike to protect themselves." (Via MSNBC)
Concerns over raids were thrust into the spotlight Tuesday when The New York Times quoted a Karzai spokesman who said U.S. troops would be allowed to conduct raids if President Obama made "a display of contrition for military mistakes that have hurt Afghans. ... tantamount to an apology," though the paper said that word wasn't used.
Both Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice flatly denied that any such deal was on the table.
John Kerry: "President Karzai didn't ask for an apology. There was no discussion of an apology." (Via CBS)
Susan Rice: "No such letter has been drafted or delivered. There's not a need for the United States to apologize." (Via CNN)
The Washington Post reports the Loya Jirga will meet for five days at Kabul Polytechnic University starting Thursday.