Afghanistan and United States sign Bilateral Security Agreement
After much delay, Afghanistan and US have signed a BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement) that will chart the course for the two countries post withdrawal of majority of American troops. The BSA was signed in Kabul. This long term security pact will be crucial in deciding the nature of internal security in Afghanistan. Significantly, there is nothing in the BSA to stop the Americans from increasing their presence in Afghanistan if the situation calls for it. Following the signing of the BSA, Afghanistan also signed an agreement with NATO
Stationing of troops
The NATO led coalition called the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) led the war efforts in Afghanistan. The ISAF once had 800 bases in Afghanistan. Now, it is down to 33 bases and 37,000 foreign troops. This number will further go down in accordance with the BSA. The NATO and US forces combined are expected to be around 12,000 with 9,800 being American and 2,000 from NATO.
Retention of bases
Under the BSA, US will retain access to 9 major land and airbases including the airfields in Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar. These bases will US access to not only Afghanistan but also to nearby tribal Pakistan. The additional bases situated all over Afghanistan like Kabul, Heart, Helmand, Mazar-i-Sharif etc will help it retaliate to an attack anywhere in the country.
Many bases like the HQ of the coalition forces’ joint command in Kabul and the British military base at Camp Bastion will be handed over to the Afghans.
Status of Forces Agreement
The agreement enter into between Afghanistan and NATO is called Status of Forces agreement. The BSA was a precondition to the signing of this agreement. Under it, NATO has agreed to fund Afghanistan’s police and security forces till 2017. The NATO troops will focus on training, equipping and advising Afghan troops and will not engage in counter-terrorism efforts. (The American Forces will be dealing with counter-terrorism efforts.) NATO led ISAF will have a training mission headquartered at Kabul and will also have six bases throughout Afghanistan.
It is to be noted that US is also a part of NATO and is also a party to this agreement.
Criticism from Taliban
Though the Afghans has welcomed the Taliban to be a part of the peace process, the Taliban has expressed its discontent over the signing of the BSA and continued presence of foreign troops in the territory.
Both signatories to the BSA, Afghanistan and USA retain the right to withdraw from the agreement. But, this right is exercisable only after 2 years.