US, Afghanistan reach postwar deal

Washington and Kabul have come to terms on the baseline agreement that will govern U.S. military forces remaining in Afghanistan after the Obama administration's 2014 withdrawal deadline. 

Secretary of State John Kerry announced the agreement had been reached on Wednesday, after last-minute breakthrough in talks between U.S. and Afghan negotiators. 

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The plan, known inside the Pentagon as the bilateral security agreement (BSA), will now go before the Loya Jirga, an assembly of the Afghanistan's most powerful tribal leaders, on Thursday. 

If approved by the jirga and Afghanistan's parliament, the BSA will go into effect , the agreement would go into effect January 2015 and last roughly a decade, according to the deal. 

The agreement does not set a troop number for the postwar U.S. force. 

The United States is considering a 9,000 to 10,000-man postwar force for Afghanistan to lock in security gains by American and NATO forces in the country are maintained after the 2014 drawdown. 

The American units will be part of a NATO-led postwar force that could total upwards of 15,000 Western troops, primarily used to train Afghan forces and execute targeted counterterrorism operations against Taliban, al Qaeda and other militant extremist groups operating in the country. 

However, Kabul retains the option to terminate the deal before the deal expires in 2024, according to the agreement. 

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Wednesday the agreement would mark the final chapter in the over decade-long Afghan war. 

"The war in Afghanistan will end next year, as the president has promised," Carney said. "The combat mission will be over." 

Strong disagreements over controversial night raids led by U.S. counterterrorism forces, as well as questions over whether a possible U.S. postwar force be subject to Afghan laws, threatened to derail postwar talks. 

The Karzai administration had pressed U.S. negotiators to allow American troops to be prosecuted in Afghan courts for alleged crimes committed during postwar operations. 

Washington, however, was staunchly opposed to opening up American military units to Afghan prosecution. 

That disagreement was a crucial factor in the failed U.S. attempt to set up a postwar security deal in Iraq, and it set the stage for the recent wave of sectarian violence against Iraqi forces and civilians in the country. 

In the end, Kabul agreed to the White House's position. 

"Afghanistan therefore agrees that the United States shall have the exclusive right to exercise jurisdiction" over the postwar force. 

In response, Kerry agreed to change language in the preliminary postwar pact to  only allow night raids under "exceptional circumstances," according to reports by the Associated Press. 

The Pentagon has argued the controversial tactic has been critical in U.S. and allied-led counterterrorism missions throughout the course of the Afghan war.

But Afghan leaders, led by President Hamid Karzai, argue U.S. and NATO-led night raids have only alienated the Afghan people and fostered anti-American sentiment across Afghanistan. 

That said, the White House flatly denied reports President Obama was drafting an apology for the Afghan war, as part of the postwar deal. 

"No such letter has been drafted or delivered. There is not a need for the United States to apologize to Afghanistan," Rice said during an interview Tuesday night on CNN.

"We have sacrificed and supported [Afghanistan] in their democratic progress and in tackling the insurgents and al Qaeda. So that [apology] is not on the table," she said.