The US should plan its post-2014 security presence in Afghanistan as if the bilateral security agreement has already been signed, but wait for the Afghans to elect a new President to actually sign it, said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on Tuesday. “President Karzai, so far, has refused to sign the BSA, that he himself agreed to, and has made a series of statements so inflammatory that they are undermining public support in the United States for continuing efforts in Afghanistan,” said Levin during a Feb. 11 SASC hearing on current and future threats. “The next Afghan President is likely to be more reliable than President Karzai and his signature is likely to instill more confidence,” added Levin. Uncertainty about whether US troops will continue to train Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations beyond the end of this year has already damaged foreign investment, hurting Afghanistan’s GDP, testified Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper said he does not think Karzai will sign the BSA. Pressed by Levin, he admitted that it could have a stabilizing effect if the US declared its intentions to wait for a new Afghan President to sign the BSA. The US, NATO, and Afghanistan “will be better off waiting for Karzai’s successor to sign the agreement that the Afghan people favor, as reflected by the consensus of the 3,000-member Loya Jirga,” said Levin.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.