Marie Harf, the State Department’s deputy spokeswoman, said the United States continues to work with the Afghan government to iron out the details of a bilateral security agreement. Despite some sovereignty issues, dialogue continues and the two parties are making progress, said Harf during an Oct. 7 press briefing. Both sides appear to be sticking to the Oct. 30 deadline for concluding an agreement, she said. “These kinds of negotiations are complex with any country. . . . We always expected there would be sticking points and bumps in the road that needed to be resolved at a high level at some point in the process,” said Harf. She added, “I don’t want to pre-judge the outcome, because as we said, these are very tricky issues, but I think it’s clear that the Afghan leadership is focused on this, we are certainly focused on it, and both of our governments are committed to moving forward.” Though Afghan National Security Forces have improved their capabilities, they still need international support to ensure Afghanistan can defend itself and protect its population, she said.
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.