World Bulletin/News Desk
The lower house of Afghan parliament approved Sunday a controversial Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S. and a Status of Forces Agreement with NATO that would allow foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
The Taliban have long voiced opposition against all such agreements that allow foreign forces to stay in Afghanistan.
The Afghan government on the other hand says such agreements will enable American and coalition troops to strengthen Afghan security forces, counter militant threats, and advance regional security.
While an overwhelming majority of the house, 152 lawmakers, voted in favor of the agreement; five lawmakers also opposed it and six others staged a walk out when voting took place.
The agreements now need approval from the parliament’s upper house or the Senate.
“In 2015, we will continue to train, advise, and assist the Afghan security forces as well as support counterterrorism operations against remnants of al Qaeda," Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby had said on Oct. 31.
The number of American soldiers is expected to reduce by half at the end of 2015; around 9,800 U.S. soldiers are expected to remain deployed in Afghanistan to train local Afghan forces.
Also, 1,000 U.S. troops might continue to stay in Afghanistan by end of 2016 for security of U.S. diplomatic departments.
Both bilateral security agreements were signed by U.S. ambassador to Kabul James Cunningham and national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar on Sept. 30 soon after the new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took oath.
Obama widens post-2014 combat role for U.S. forces
President Barack Obama has approved plans to give U.S. military commanders a wider role to fight the Taliban alongside Afghan forces after the current mission ends next month, a senior administration official said.
The decision made in recent weeks extends previous plans by authorising U.S. troops to carry out combat operations against the Taliban to protect Americans and support Afghanistan's security forces as part of the new ISAF Resolute Support mission next year.
Obama had announced in May that U.S. troop levels would be cut to 9,800 by the end of the year, by half again in 2015 and to a normal embassy presence with a security assistance office in Kabul by the end of 2016.
Under that plan, only a small contingent of 1,800 U.S. troops was limited to counterterrorism operations against remnants of al Qaeda. The new orders will also allow operations against the Taliban.
"To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to al Qaeda, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe," the official said.
A report by the New York Times late on Friday said the new authorisation also allows the deployment of American jets, bombers and drones.
More than 4,600 Afghan force members have been killed since the start of the year, 6.5 percent more than a year ago. Despite being funded with more than $4 billion in aid this year, police and soldiers frequently complain they lack the resources to fight the Taliban on their own.
"Right now we don't have heavy weapons, artillery and air support. If Americans launch their own operations and help us, too, then we will be able to tackle Taliban," said senior police detective Asadullah Insafi in eastern Ghazni province.
The Taliban said it is undeterred by the U.S. announcement.Last Mod: 23 Kasım 2014, 15:00