Afghanistan may not be seeing a full withdrawal of US troops soon, as many had expected. A newly obtained US-Afghanistan security agreement draft suggests that US forces will stay for much longer than originally expected, possibly indefinitely. The draft includes an agreement for US military outposts and bases to remain in Afghanistan through 2024. It also shows plans to fund and train a great number of Afghan security forces.
The security agreement draft was obtained by NBC News, as they reported Tuesday. The unsigned 25-page document is dated to July 25, 2013 and appears to be a working draft. Titled the “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between The United States of American and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” its details range from being very specific to rather unclear.
The draft is set for review and discussion between some 2,500 officials, academics, and village representatives in Kabul this week. While the panel, known as Loya Jirga, does not have authority to make an agreement, Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai says he will not sign the treaty without their approval.
News of this security agreement draft comes on the heels of statements made recently by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army General Martin Dempsey, Bloomberg reports. On Monday he said that while a “ubiquitous presence of US military force” is not necessary in Afghanistan post-2014, the country “can’t live without any.” Dempsey says a US and NATO presence will be needed to maintain Afghanistan’s security and to guarantee foreign aid money is not being exploited.
The high ranking military official’s remarks back up indications that the Afghan security agreement draft seeks to allow US troops to remain in country indefinitely. NATO has already said that around 8,000 to 12,000 troops could stay in Afghanistan after 2014, not including security guards or counterterrorism forces.
The newly leaked treaty draft, as it is written, would go into effect in 2015, after the end of the current mission in Afghanistan. It also says the deal would be in effect through 2024 “and beyond.” While there have been concerns over several details in the draft, NBC News says an update circulated among Pentagon staff and Congress on Monday addresses these issues.
Signing of the the Afghanistan security agreement will likely not happen for another two months, as it must be approved by the Afghan parliament and president.