U.S., Afghanistan Agree on Terms for Withdrawal

Latest negotiations include U.S. apology as well as size and job description of remaining troops.

Soldiers attend a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan, north of Kabul, on July 4, 2013.
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This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. to reflect new information

Secretary of State John Kerry announced Wednesday afternoon that the U.S. and Afghanistan have agreed on a Bilateral Security Agreement, regarding the U.S. withdrawal at the end of 2014 and remaining U.S. troop numbers. 

The agreement will be presented to an Afghan Loya Jirga, a grand assembly of tribal leaders in Kabul, on Thursday for debate.

Kerry also addressed reports that Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded an apology from the U.S. as a part of the agreement. 

“I honestly don’t know where the idea of an apology started,” said Kerry, while speaking at a press conference with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and their Australian counterparts. He suspects this misinformation stemmed from a “chain of press” in Afghanistan misquoting Afghan officials. 

“President Karzai didn’t ask for an apology. There was no discussion of an apology. It’s not even on the table,” Kerry said. “He didn’t ask for it. We’re not discussing it.” 

The BSA clarifies for Afghans the U.S. role after 2014 and following 12 years of war will be limited to training, equipping and assisting the Afghan forces. There will be no combat role for U.S. troops, Kerry said. 

“The agreement will speak for itself, when the agreement is approved,” he said.  


This story was originally posted at 10:27 a.m.

The U.S. may continue to send thousands of troops and billions of dollars per year in Afghanistan if both countries confirm the latest draft of the post-2014 security agreement for the warring nation, according to reports out of the ongoing negotiations.

Representatives from the U.S. and Afghanistan appear to have made significant headway in developing a Bilateral Security Agreement, or BSA, for NATO forces post-2014, after all "combat troops" have withdrawn. The remaining troops will likely take on a strict advisory and training role for the fledgling Afghan forces.

NBC News obtained a copy of the latest draft agreement from July, which includes an open-ended military commitment. It is very specific on some points, such as taxing Americans in Afghanistan and the use of radios, and vague in other areas such as troop levels or responsibility for U.S. bases, according to NBC.

[READ: Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey: Troops Needed in Afghanistan]

A meeting of tribal elders, called a Loya Jirga, will take place in Kabul this week to debate the agreement.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, offered his own opinion Monday night before an audience of CEOs in Washington, D.C., indicating that an agreement may be close to fruition. He said Afghanistan could not survive without "a ubiquitous presence of U.S. military forces," and "they can't live without any" U.S. troops there.

"If that money dries up, then they can't survive," he said.

In a phone conversation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai late Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of completing the BSA. Kerry declined Karzai's invitation to attend the jirga in person this week, according to the State Department.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki would not comment Tuesday afternoon on reports that the Afghan president's office was expecting an apology from the U.S. administration for previous wartime mistakes, including incidental Afghan civilian casualties. In his conversation with Kerry, Karzai asked for a letter from the Obama administration regarding these points.

"I'm not going to get into the specifics of the final issues," Psaki said. "I know there have been a range of reports, some [that] have been read out by our counterparts in Afghanistan. But beyond that, I'm not going to get into specifics."

[READ: 4 Lessons the Afghanistan Drawdown Could Learn from Iraq]

"I just have nothing to convey on whether there will be presidential correspondence on this," she said.

The final details over how many troops would remain in Afghanistan and the scope of their responsibilities remains up in the air. Obama has previously said the mission could include direct action against al-Qaida cells, though language in the draft text obtained by NBC claims U.S. soldiers would not be allowed to make arrests or enter Afghan homes without permission.

Updated 11/20/13: This article was updated to include comments from Secretary of State John Kerry.