Afghanistan, NATO discuss status of forces agreement

Kabul, Dec 22: The Afghan government and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) started negotiations on the Status of Forces Agreement Saturday.

“As mutually agreed by NATO and the Government of Afghanistan, we have decided to open negotiations on the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA),” reported Xinhua citing NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in a statement.

The Status of Forces Agreement will constitute a key element of the legal framework needed for the deployment of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces after 2014, as agreed with the Afghan government at the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, he said.

While welcoming the start of these talks, at a meeting of NATO ‘s Senior Civilian Representative Ambassador Maurits Jochems with the Afghan National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Rasmussen stressed that “the NATO Status of Forces Agreement will not be concluded or signed until the signature of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the Governments of Afghanistan and the United States”.

The BSA governs the future of US military presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

Washington wanted Kabul to get it inked by the end of 2013. Nevertheless, Karzai said that the BSA would not be signed until the presidential election April 5, 2014.

Local analysts said if the two sides fail to reach the deal, the US will consider the complete withdrawal of troops, similar to the pull-out of US troops from Iraq two years ago.

Over 84,000 NATO-led foreign troops, with 60,000 of them Americans, are currently deployed in Afghanistan.

IANS