NATO, U.S. expect troop deal
BRUSSELS — NATO troops in Afghanistan are bracing for a bloody winter as the country's presidential election nears, a senior U.S. military official said on Tuesday, warning of an anticipated spike in high-profile attacks and political assassinations during a season that typically brings a lull in fighting.
Despite the ominous outlook for a period that will coincide with the U.S. military drawdown, NATO officials said they are “confident” that Afghan politicians and elders will sign off on a proposed deal to keep an American military force in the country after 2014.
That upbeat assessment stood in contrast to remarks by an Afghan government spokesman in Kabul, who told the Reuters news agency that some aspects of the agreement remain up for debate.
If a deal is inked shortly after an Afghan consultative body reviews its terms late next month, the United States and its partners may still have enough time to cobble together the political support and funding needed to keep a few thousand troops from the United States and allied nations in Afghanistan after the NATO mandate expires, the U.S. official said.
Western officials view the next fedw months as a turning point in the Afghanistan war, with a presidential election in April and lingering doubts about the international role in the aid-dependent country. The Taliban is widely expected to make its presence felt, as American troops drop from 51,000 to 34,000 in February, the U.S. military official said.
“They're going to try to disrupt the elections — we expect that — and, more importantly, disrupt the broader political process,” the official told reporters in Brussels, where Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was meeting with counterparts from allied nations.
The Afghan security deal, known as the Bilateral Security Agreement, appeared to be on life support just a few weeks ago, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke dismissively about NATO's legacy in his country.
But Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Kabul this month and announced that the sides had reached a breakthrough on outstanding issues.
The U.S. military official said Tuesday that he was “pretty confident there will be an agreement.” U.S. officials said the pact will be presented to a consultative body of influential Afghans, known as a loya jirga, late next month. If it signs off on the terms, the text will be presented to parliament for approval.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday that he, too, thought that an agreement would be reached, paving the way for a similar deal between the Afghan government and NATO.
“I am confident because the Afghans know that such agreements are a prerequisite for our deployment of trainers,” Rasmussen said.
Speaking to reporters en route to Brussels on Monday, Hagel said that getting support from the Afghan consultative body, which was convened by Karzai, was critical.
“President Karzai felt that it was important that the people of Afghanistan feel that they have a voice in this,” Hagel said.
Officials have not described what agreement Kerry reached on contentious issues. They include the scope of a post-2014 U.S. counterterrorism force and a demand by Afghanistan for a formal U.S. pledge to defend the country from external aggressors. Kerry said the only unresolved item involved whether American troops could be subject to Afghan law in certain circumstances.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- In Paris, nations, investors to pledge billions for climate change research
- Climate summit spawns protest marches around world
- A third of world’s cacti threatened with extinction, report says
- Senators call for 20,000 more troops in Syria and Iraq
- Pope Francis appeals for peace amid tight security in Central African Republic
- EU expects ‘immediate’ clampdown on migrants in $3.2B deal with Turkey
- Iran gives investors glimpse of $30 billion in oil deals to come
- Israel suspends contact with some EU groups over labels on exports
- Norway mulls using medical heroin to prevent deadly overdoses
- Pakistani doctor who led CIA to bin Laden stuck in prison
- Mexico seizes El Chapo’s planes, cars, houses