Afghan, US Talks for Long-Term Security Deal Begin
 
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Formal talks for a security deal between Kabul and Washington began Thursday to outline America's military commitment to Afghanistan after the end of Nato's current Isaf mission in 2014.

The talks got underway in Kabul with a formal address from US and Afghan officials, including a brief speech from US deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Warlick.

"Today's discussion begins a process called for in the strategic partnership agreement: to conclude a bilateral security agreement. It can the basis for an enduring security cooperation partnership and can provide the framework for security and stability for the people of Afghanistan," he said.

"Our talks demonstrate full respect for the sovereignty of both of our countries with recognition of the importance to work together on threats to that sovereignty.

We look forward to the successful conclusion of our negotiations and an agreement that will provide reassurance to the Afghan people that our partnership extends beyond 2014. We are also aware that the conclusion of a bilateral security agreement can only happen if the government and people of Afghanistan truly want such a partnership," Warlick said.

Negotiations are not expected to be smooth with officials saying it is likely to take a year before an agreement is reached and Afghanistan's neighbours already voicing their opposition to the ongoing presence of US forces in the region.

Afghan officials told TOLOnews the pact will clarify what the purpose of the US military is in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and the circumstances they may operate under, as well as the level of military funding and assistance the US will give to Afghan forces.

But some analysts are concerned at the impact it will have a relations with Afghanistan's neighbours.

Tehran has repeatedly declared its opposition to the establishment of US permanent bases in Afghanistan, despite the American reassurances that it is seeking no such thing.

It is not clear yet what kind of bases Washington will have in Afghanistan, but Iran's foreign minister deputy has said that US efforts to establish itself in Afghanistan are a threat to peace and stability in the region.

A sticking point is likely to the question of US forces being immune from prosecution in Afghanistan.

Despite the hurdles, Afghan lawmakers and political analysts have largely welcomed the talks as fear over renewed violence after 2014 loom.

"We don't have any other way to strengthen the Afghan security forces but to sign this agreement and signing this document will be very helpful for Afghanistan," military analyst Atiqullah Amarkhail told TOLOnews.

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