Washington: The bilateral security agreement (BSA), which would supersede the current status of forces agreement with Afghanistan, is expected to be signed next year, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
“The BSA with Afghanistan we would expect would be entered into probably sometime next year. I don’t have the precise timeline, but that’s our goal. This is obviously not an easy process with any country,” the Pentagon press secretary said.
George Little told a news conference the US would expect the deal to include provisions similar to those in status of forces agreements that it had negotiated with other countries.
The agreements involved not just issues related to the military, but also taxation, entry and exit, imports and exports, as well as access to host nation facilities, he explained.
Asked if the accord would include immunity for US soldiers, Little said there was a likelihood of protections for American personnel being part of SOFA discussions.
“So I would expect that to be on the agenda for talks. But we’re not to the point yet where any decisions have been reached by either side on specific legal provisions in an agreement that we don’t expect would be entered into before next year,” he added.
Little said the United States would be in Afghanistan after 2014 only at the invitation of the Afghan government. “We have full respect for Afghan sovereignty. I think we’ve said that a prospective post-2014 presence would be aimed at training Afghan forces and targeting the remnants of al-Qaida.”
Earlier in the day, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta held a teleconference with General John Allen, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. They reviewed the current situation.
“If you look at the markers of progress in Afghanistan, you look at the number of Afghans who are now living in areas under Afghan security lead. That’s one metric. Violence levels are down. And let me just point out a recent poll that was conducted by the Asia Foundation. We welcome the results of this comprehensive opinion poll,” he said.