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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Army Gen. Martin Dempsey called on Afghanistan’s government to promptly sign the pending bilateral security agreement allowing US and allied troops to maintain a presence in the country beyond the 2014 withdraw of combat troops. The role America and its allies will play in the country after 2014 “must be clearly defined, and it must be defined very soon,” said Hagel during the year-end news conference at the Pentagon last week. The pair also noted the retrograde of personnel and materiel from the country is a complex operation, and is facing challenges with the Pakistanis blockading the Torkham Gate, one of the major supply lines in and out of the country. Certainty with security arrangements will aid efforts to build Afghan armed forces capacity, Dempsey said. Security forces are capable of overcoming Taliban competitors, but they have some “systemic problems” – specifically with regards to logistics, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance and transport. Both Dempsey and Hagel recently returned from trips to the region. (AFPS article)(Dempsey/Hagel transcript)