Officials from the White House and Pentagon are still going over the details of an immunity plan, but the major roadblocks on a deal are no longer an issue, Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalSenate Dems ask DHS inspector general for probe of Trump’s business arrangement If Gorsuch pick leads to 'crisis,' Dems should look in mirror first Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order MORE (D-Conn.) told The Hill on Tuesday.
Blumenthal, who just returned from a visit to Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and American commanders to discuss the issue of U.S. troop immunity and other matters concerning the administration's 2014 troop drawdown and the overall postwar strategy for Afghanistan.
"I found our conversation with President Karzai very encouraging, as well as our conversations with some of the commanders in the progress that is being made," he said during a press conference Tuesday.
The Connecticut Democrat accompanied Sens. John McCainJohn McCainWebb: The future of conservatism New national security adviser pick marks big change on Russia Trump names McMaster new national security adviser MORE (R-Ariz.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteLewandowski saw no evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire NH governor 'not aware’ of major voter fraud Former NH AG: 'Allegations of voter fraud in NH are baseless' MORE (R-N.H.), Chris CoonsChris CoonsSenate advances Trump's Commerce pick Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order Senate Dem: Trump will hurt Gorsuch's confirmation by undermining judiciary MORE (D-Del.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehousePruitt confirmation sets stage for Trump EPA assault Senate Dems ask DHS inspector general for probe of Trump’s business arrangement Senate confirms Pruitt to lead EPA MORE (D-R.I.) during the trip, which also included meetings with members of the Syrian Opposition Council and regional leaders in Jordan and Israel.
He declined to comment on the details of the Karzai meeting or when a final immunity deal would be reached, but reiterated the pact was close to completion after Tuesday's press briefing.
On Tuesday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinSilencing of Warren another example of hyperpartisan Senate GOP going nuclear over Gorsuch might destroy filibuster forever Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers MORE (D-Mich.) said a troop immunity deal would be critical for any American military presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
Levin, along with committee member Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedCruz: Supreme Court 'likely' to uphold Trump order Schumer: Trump should see 'handwriting on the wall,' drop order Sanders: Court ruling might 'teach President Trump a lesson' MORE (D-R.I.), also recently returned from a visit to eastern Afghanistan as part of a week-long congressional junket that included stops to Turkey and NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The lack of an troop immunity deal ultimately killed an agreement between the Obama administration and Iraq on positioning U.S. forces in the country after the American pullout in December 2011, Levin pointed out.
Washington has similar agreements with almost every country where U.S. forces are deployed, President Obama said during a joint press conference with Karzai at the White House earlier this month.
Looking to avoid a repeat of Iraq, the White House reportedly made concessions on several key security issues in order to get the beginnings of an immunity deal in place.
The White House has agreed to hand over complete control of U.S.-run detention facilities in the country, as well as pull out American military units stationed inside Afghan villages, Karzai said during the joint press conference.
A possible immunity deal would also reverse a Pentagon decision to retain custody of hundreds of suspected Taliban fighters captured by American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.