KABUL: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has opened negotiations with Afghanistan over a proposed military force to stay in the country after next year, but said no deal would be signed until after a separate agreement with the United States was completed.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the US have been in a long and bitter standoff over the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which would see several thousand US troops deployed in Afghanistan after 2014.
Karzai initially endorsed the BSA, but has since declined to sign it, outraging US officials and lawmakers who have threatened a complete forces pullout.
“The message of the United States and its allies in Europe is clear: the Bilateral Security Agreement should be signed without any more delay,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said negotiations had begun between NATO senior civilian representative Maurits Jochems and Afghan national security adviser Rangin Spanta.
“I welcome the start of these talks today . . . while stressing that the NATO Status of Forces Agreement will not be concluded or signed until the signature of the Bilateral Security Agreement between the Governments of Afghanistan and the United States,” Rasmussen said in a statement.