U.S., Afghanistan Start Talks on Status of U.S. Troops


Soldiers with Bravo Company 82nd Division Special Troops Battalion provide security during an air assault mission in 2009 in Parwan, Afghanistan.

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The bilateral security agreement is essentially a status of forces agreement and will include all the authorities needed to operate military forces in Afghanistan, including taxation, visas and other technical issues. It does not need to be ratified by the U.S. Congress. The U.S. has similar agreements with dozens of countries.

In Iraq, a similar deal fell apart after U.S. officials were unable to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on legal issues and troop immunity that would have allowed a small training and counterterrorism force to remain there.

Karzai said last month that the issue of soldiers being protected from prosecution in Afghanistan could be a problem in the talks. He has said Afghanistan might demand prosecutions in some cases. The issue took on new meaning after Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly attacked Afghan civilians in two villages in southern Afghanistan. The American soldier faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder in the March 11 attacks against civilians. A preliminary hearing was held this week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

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