Kerry acknowledges 'mistakes' in US-Afghan postwar talks

Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday admitted a handful of Washington's hard line positions in postwar negotiations with Afghanistan were "mistakes," vowing to grant Kabul more leeway on those issues. 

One of the biggest mistakes was the Obama administration's insistence that Afghan leaders allow members of a potential American postwar force to conduct night raids in the country. 

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

"This issue of raids has always been one that's been subject of negotiation and conversation and consultation with the Afghans," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.

"And the general issue . . .  has, of course, been of concern, understandably to the Afghan government and concern to the United States and to the administration [and] to the U.S. military," Carney told reporters at the White House. 

That change is only the latest effort by American negotiators to keep U.S-Afghan postwar negotiations from falling apart, less than a year before all American combat troops are scheduled to withdraw from the country. 

On Monday, a defense official told The Hill that a key meeting of top Afghan leaders on the Obama administration's postwar strategy for the country is still on track, despite a recent terrorist attack in the country's capitol of Kabul. 

A suicide bomb ripped through a secure compound in downtown Kabul on Saturday, killing six and injuring dozens more, according to the Associated Press. 

The location of the attack is where members of the Loya Jirga, an assembly of the country's most powerful tribal leaders, are scheduled to meet later this week to review the U.S. postwar plan. 

That meeting to review the American strategy, known as a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), remains on schedule despite the attack, according to the defense official.

"Discussions have been ongoing with the Afghans to finalize the text ahead of the Loya Jirga," according to the defense official. 

"We have long been clear that we believe that a BSA is in the interests of both countries and will continue to work toward that end," the official said. 

While Kerry was willing to concede the White House's position on night raids, administration officials are standing firm in its opposition to opening up American military units to Afghan prosecution. 

The Karzai government is still demanding members of a possible U.S. postwar force be subject to Afghan laws under a so-called status of forces agreement. 

That would allow American troops to be prosecuted in Afghan courts for alleged crimes committed during postwar operations. 

That said, President Obama has made clear the White House is willing to walk away from any postwar deal that includes Afghan jurisdiction over U.S. forces. 

Pentagon officials argue that any U.S. troops accused of alleged war crimes a part of post-2014 operations will be subject to prosecution by American military courts. 

Similar agreements have been reached with nearly all foreign nations in which American forces operate. 

But the lack of a status of forces deal was a crucial factor in the failed 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. 

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. 

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