Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday to meet with the candidates for the Afghan presidency, as well as other officials, in hopes of reaching a deal to resolve the disputed June runoff election. Kerry will follow up on his July visit to Kabul, and subsequent contacts with both candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, to “accelerate the audit process which they are both participating in, and make progress on the details of the political framework that they agreed to during the Secretary’s last visit,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement. US officials have increasingly worried the drawn out audit process of votes from the June 14 election, which USAF mobility airmen are supporting in Afghanistan, is creating political uncertainty, and further delaying the signing of a bilateral security agreement between the US and Afghanistan. Both candidates have said they support signing a BSA, and US and International Security Assistance Force officials (to include newly confirmed ISAF Commander Army Gen. John Campbell) say such an agreement is critical to NATO’s follow-on training and advising mission for Afghan security forces.
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.