The United States and Afghanistan have reached a draft agreement that could legally clear the way for thousands of US troops to remain in country following the 2014 end of combat operations, reported the Associated Press Wednesday evening. The bilateral security pact will be submitted to the Loya Jirga—a 3,000-member council of Afghan elders who have the authority to amend the draft—on Nov. 21, according to the report. “There were some people who may have questioned or doubted whether that was going to happen. Well, it’s happening tomorrow,” said Kerry during a Nov. 20 news conference at the State Department with Australian officials and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. If the Obama Administration objects to changes made by the Loya Jirga, the US could find itself in a familiar place. The US and Iraq failed to reach a similar agreement following the end of combat operations there in 2011, forcing the US to pull all but some hundred troops out of country. It’s not clear how many troops will remain in Afghanistan post-2014, but it is expected to be between 8,000 and 12,000 US and coalition troops, according to the AP report. Kerry emphasized that the US’ post-2014 role will be “entirely train, equip, and assist. There is no combat role for United States forces, and the bilateral security agreement is a way to try to clarify [that] for Afghans and for United States military forces . . . ”
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.