Kerry: No open-ended Afghan presence

Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday sought to assure Congress that Washington's recent postwar pact with Afghanistan would not lead to an open-ended commitment of U.S. forces in the country. 

“We are not talking about years and years" of having American boots on the ground in Afghanistan after the White House mandated troop pullout in 2014, Kerry said. 

"That is not what is contemplated," the former Massachusetts Senator told reporters on Capitol Hill. 

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The U.S. troop commitment under the postwar deal being reviewed by senior leaders in Kabul "is way shorter than any kind of [deal by] years and years," according to Kerry. 

The postwar plan, known inside the Pentagon as the bilateral security agreement (BSA), was presented by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to the Loya Jirga, an assembly of the Afghanistan's most powerful tribal leaders, on Thursday. 

Kerry and Karzai announced the final proposal on Wednesday, a day before the jirga meeting. 

The BSA would go into effect in January 2015 and last roughly a decade, should the Karzai administration and the jirga approve the plan. 

However, Kabul retains the option to terminate the deal before the deal expires in 2024, according to the terms of the postwar pact. 

The Obama White House 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 would 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 the Taliban, al Qaeda and other militant extremist groups operating in the country. 

But critics of the plan argue the deal would keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan until 2024, a politically unpalatable prospect given Americans' war weariness after over a decade of combat in the country.

Such an extended troop presence in Afghanistan would also be another financial burden on the Pentagon, which is already struggling to cope with an increasingly difficult fiscal environment. 

But On Thursday, Kerry sought to quell those concerns, telling reporters the White House has no intention of keeping a U.S. force in Afghanistan for the indefinite future. 

"I have no contemplation I have heard, from the president or otherwise, some extended [presence for] years and years," Kerry said. 

"That is just crystal clear," he added. 

White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated that sentiment on Wednesday, telling reporters on the postwar agreement would be the definitive end of U.S.-led combat operations in the Afghan war. 

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