Afghanistan and the United States signed a long delayed Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) on Tuesday in Kabul, guaranteeing a Western presence in the country beyond 2014. The signing comes shortly after the inauguration of Ashraf Ghani as president and months of political infighting.
Under the BSA’s wide-ranging terms, 12,000 foreign military personnel will remain in Afghanistan past December. The mission will comprise approximately 9,800 U.S. troops, with remaining positions being manned by other NATO allies. The residual force will not be limited to just training the Afghan Army, but will also engage in combat operations outside their bases. A separate Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) is expected to be signed between the Afghan government and NATO soon.
U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham signs the BSA in Kabul on September 30. (Photo: Reuters)
However, differences persist, notably on the ability for U.S. troops and special operations units to launch raids without central government involvement. Night raids on local homes and sacred sites and the role of foreign contractors remain concerns for Afghan leaders. The U.S. government will retain legal jurisdiction over criminal proceedings or disciplinary action involving military personnel, previously a sticking point for former President Hamid Karzai. The White House praised the new agreement saying it looks forward to “an enduring partnership that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability, unity, and prosperity, and that contributes to our shared goal of defeating al-Qaeda and its extremist affiliates.”
The signing of the BSA comes after Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah were sworn into lead the Afghan government on Monday. As part of a power sharing agreement following allegations of voter fraud during elections this summer, Abdullah will become the Chief Executive. The new role will reportedly dilute the president’s power, although whether the two will cooperate remains to be seen.