US, Afghan officials to hammer out immunity plan in Kabul

The Afghan foreign ministry confirmed the upcoming two-day meeting with American diplomats and military officials in a statement issued to the state-run Iranian news service Press TV on Monday. 

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told The Hill on Jan. 13 that outstanding issues between Washington and Kabul over a potential troop immunity deal had been "largely resolved." 

For their part, foreign ministry officials on Monday did not provide any specifics regarding the upcoming meeting in Afghanistan with their U.S. counterparts. 

"The details of the negotiations between the two sides will be disclosed after the [immunity] deal is signed," Afghan officials told the Iranian news outlet. 

If finalized, U.S. forces left behind in Afghanistan would not be subject to criminal prosecution by Afghan courts for counterterrorism or other combat operations conducted in the country after 2014. 

The lack of an troop immunity deal ultimately killed an agreement between the Obama administration and Iraq on positioning U.S. forces in the country after the American pullout in December 2011.

Blumenthal, who had just returned from a visit to Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and American commanders to discuss the issue of U.S. troop immunity and other matters concerning the administration's 2014 troop drawdown and the overall postwar strategy for Afghanistan.

"I found our conversation with President Karzai very encouraging, as well as our conversations with some of the commanders in the progress that is being made," he said at the time during a press conference on Capitol Hill. 

The issue of U.S. troop immunity was a key discussion topic between Karzai and President Obama during the Afghan president's visit to Washington earlier this month. 

Looking to avoid a repeat of Iraq, the White House reportedly made concessions on several key security issues in order to get the beginnings of an immunity deal in place. 

The White House has agreed to hand over complete control of U.S.-run detention facilities in the country, as well as accelerate the transition of security operations to Afghan forces, as part of those concessions. 

Aside from upcoming talks with American officials on troop immunity, Afghan defense officials also met with top military leaders in Pakistan to discuss the way ahead for both countries after the U.S. withdrawal. 

Monday's meeting between Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Bismillah Khan Muhammad and Pakistani Army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Rawalpindi focused on "enhancing mutual defence cooperation and measures" between the two nations, according to local press reports. 

Along with defense cooperation issues, Kabul and Islamabad have also been working closely, with the support of U.S. leaders, to craft a peace deal with the Taliban. 

Those Afghan-Pakistan talks have centered around a multi-phased, Afghan-led approach to getting the Taliban to the negotiation table. 

The Afghan-led peace talks with the Taliban, as part of an overarching peace plan, "is absolutely essential to bringing the war to a responsible close," Doug Lute, the administration's top adviser for South Asia, told reporters earlier this month.