KABUL — Crucial negotiations on the status of U.S. forces remaining in Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal in 2014 will begin in Kabul this week, the foreign ministry said Nov. 11.
A key element of any agreement will be the question of immunity for U.S. troops from prosecution in local courts.
In Iraq, Washington pulled out all of its troops after failing to get Baghdad to grant its soldiers immunity, and President Hamid Karzai has warned there could be similar problems in Afghanistan.
The issue has been highlighted by the massacre of 16 villagers earlier this year, allegedly by a rogue U.S. soldier who was flown out of the country and is facing hearings in the United States.
“The official talks on the signing of a security pact will begin between the governments of Afghanistan and U.S.A. in Kabul on Nov. 15,” foreign ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai told a press conference.
They will be led by the Afghan ambassador to the U.S., Eklil Hakimi, and Deputy U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Warlick, Mosazai said.
“The security pact will deal with the status of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, the U.S. security mandate and the cooperation of the U.S. government with Afghanistan,” he said.
A spokesman from the U.S. embassy in Kabul confirmed that the negotiations would begin on Nov. 15, but declined further comment before the start of the talks.
U.S. President Barack Obama flew to Kabul to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Karzai in May, but that did not cover the legal status of any troops remaining behind after the 2014 withdrawal of NATO combat forces.
The U.S. has some 68,000 troops in the NATO force of more than 100,000 and is expected to leave an as yet unspecified number to help train, advise and assist Afghan forces in the war against Taliban insurgents.
U.S. military officers have said they envisage a follow-on force of around 15,000 personnel but this has not been confirmed.