By Carlo Muñoz - 04/12/12 09:10 PM EDT
With concerns over control of terror detainees and the continued use of night raids against Taliban targets now resolved, there aren't many sticking points left to hash out on the presumptive deal, Afghan defense chief Abdul Wardak said on Thursday.
Washington officially handed Kabul control over detainee operations and oversight on night raid missions in April.
The United States has "come a long way with us on a difficult journey ... please help us to get to our final destination," he added.
In addition to the deal with the United States, Afghan officials are also finalizing the terms of a separate post-war pact with NATO, Wardak said on Thursday.
Like the pending agreement with Washington, Afghan leaders will use existing one-off deals already in place with Brussels as the template for the new, overarching deal.
Wardak and Afghan Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi plan to meet with NATO officials next week to discuss the details.
Post-war involvement of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be largely dependent on American special forces units working closely with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), according to recent news reports.
Those American troops would support Afghan-led counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations once the bulk of U.S. soldiers leave Afghanistan in 2014.
Troop redeployments are scheduled to begin this summer with the remaining U.S. forces leaving the country within the next two years.
But for any post-Afghanistan plan to work, the United States and its allies must understand the ANSF must evolve past the "narrow view" of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism.
Afghan military and police must be able to conduct "independent operations" if the country is to survive the American withdrawal.
To do that, Kabul needs continued financial support from Washington, Wardak said, because the fragile Afghan economy is the No. 1 threat to the country's security.
The ANSF need planes to move their troops around and more firepower to support those troops in the field.
They also need U.S equipment to counter the threat of improvised explosive devices — the No. 1 cause of injury or death to American and coalition forces, Wardak said.
But continuing U.S. funding for the ANSF comes at a difficult time for the Pentagon.
Defense Department officials are grappling with their own financial problems, looking to cut just under $500 billion from DOD coffers over the next decade.
But the Afghan defense chief pointed out that partially financing the ANSF would be "much cheaper and politically much less complex" than keeping a sizable American presence in the country.
However, "the [fiscal] burden ... should not fall on the U.S. alone." NATO partners should also pony up its fair share of the Afghan security bill, Wardak said.
But if that support does not come, Afghanistan will fall back into "the catastrophic disaster of the 1990s."
That is when the Taliban and various Afghan militias tore the country apart after Washington its pulled support after Soviet forces retreated from Afghanistan.
The 2014 deadline set by the Obama administration cannot be "a complete exit from the picture" by the United States in Afghanistan, Mohammadi added during Thursday's speech.