A long-term, small U.S. and NATO-ISAF military presence in Afghanistan post-2014 is in the interest of Afghanistan, the region, and the United States and requires a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). This force would provide advice, training, intelligence and enabling support to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), monitor the funds required to sustain the ANSF, and enhance U.S. counterterrorism capabilities. It would also send signals to the Afghan public and the region of a long-term U.S. commitment and potentially deter counterproductive hedging behavior.
Yet the current climate in Afghanistan suggests that such an agreement will most likely not materialize in the near future. The United States is embroiled in an ongoing public dispute with Afghan President Hamid Karzai as the United States and its NATO allies continue their drawdown from Afghanistan, support the ANSF as they prepare for the upcoming presidential and provincial council elections, and attempt to determine a post-2014 U.S. and NATO-ISAF military presence. Because of this dispute—stemming largely from President Karzai’s intransigence—the United States may have no choice but to wait until after the Afghan presidential election to finalize a BSA.This article was originally published in The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.