By Carlo Muñoz - 01/23/13 10:05 PM EST
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 BlumenthalCalifornia National Guard official: Congress knew about bonus repayments Dems demand anti-LGBT language be taken out of defense bill Senate Dems want major women's golf event moved off Trump course 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 McCainObama's right to tackle redistricting, but it won't be easy Flake gets early 2018 primary challenger Cruz: Precedent exists for keeping Supreme Court short-staffed MORE (R-Ariz.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteThe Hill's 12:30 Report Dem accuses Ayotte of 'secret campaign' to reach out to Trump backers Five takeaways from Florida Senate debate MORE (R-N.H.), Chris CoonsChris CoonsDem blasts Trump on 'jail' line: 'That's what dictators do' Election-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Overnight Healthcare: McConnell unveils new Zika package | Manchin defends daughter on EpiPens | Bill includes M for opioid crisis MORE (D-Del.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseMoney for nothing: Rethinking CO2 Dem takes Exxon fight to GOP chairman's backyard Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP 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 LevinThe Fed and a return to banking simplicity What Our presidential candidates can learn from Elmo Zumwalt Will there be a 50-50 Senate next year? 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 ReedTop Lobbyists 2016: Hired Guns Armani, Batali among guests at White House state dinner Overnight Finance: Jobless claims near record low | Cops bust IRS phone scam in India | Republican demands Iran sanctions docs 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.