By Carlo Muñoz - 12/19/13 05:14 PM EST
Revelations of Afghan forces handing over military outposts to local Taliban fighters as part of a slew of security side deals highlight the need for Kabul to approve a postwar pact, the U.S.'s top military officer said.
Members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) allegedly reached an agreement with Taliban units to hand over the positions in the volatile Sangin district in Helmand province in the south, according to recent reports.
But as the American war in Afghanistan nears the White House's 2014 withdrawal deadline without a postwar plan in place, local Afghan-Taliban pacts like those in Sangin will only increase, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said Thursday.
"The longer the BSA [bilateral security agreement] is unresolved ... the people of Sangin [are] questioning whether we're going to actually be there for them and continue to allow the [ANSF] to develop so that it can counter the Taliban's influence," Dempsey said.
"This is exactly why we need the [deal] to be signed," the four-star general added.
American and coalition military planners are already beginning to decide on final troop rotations out of Afghanistan, which would possibly end with the last soldiers leaving the country this spring.
A decision on whether a follow-on, postwar force will be sent into Afghanistan cannot be finalized until a postwar pact with Afghanistan is locked in place.
The White House is considering a force of 9,000 to 10,000 as part of a NATO force of 15,000 tasked with training and counterterrorism missions.
But demands by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which include banning all U.S. forces from entering Afghan homes and the unconditional release of all Afghan detainees in U.S. custody at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have the Obama White House considering a full withdrawal from the country.
That move, according to Dempsey, could threaten to shatter the already fragile confidence among the ANSF.
That loss of confidence could erode the hard-fought security gains by U.S., Afghan and allied forces over the course of the 12-year war.
"If [ANSF] have a single shortcoming right now, it is confidence, and the BSA will give them confidence. I can say that with great certainty," Dempsey said.