Bilateral Security Agreement
with Afghanistan



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Afghan War News > Topics > Bilateral Security Agreement with Afghanistan

UPDATE: The Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) was signed the day after President Ashraf Ghani was inaugurated. The Afghan parliament (both houses) approved the BSA and NATO SOFA in late November. On December 1, 2014 President Ghani ratified both agreements.

Publications and Documents on the Bilateral Security Agreement

The text of the Bilateral Security Agreement can be read at the link below:

Embassy of the United States - Kabul, Afghanistan
U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement, Fact Sheet, September 30, 2014

The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the government of Afghanistan and NATO was signed at the same time as the BSA. You can read the SOFA document online or download at the website of the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

Status Of Contractors Under BSA and SOFA

Unfortunately, contractors working in Afghanistan do not have much protection afforded them under the BSA or SOFA. Contractors currently working in Afghanistan will undergo a significant transition in status. All contractors will be subject to Afghan criminal and civil jurisdiction while operating in Afghanistan. Contractor employees may only carry weapons in accordance with Afghan laws and regulations. All contractors will be required to have passports and visas to enter and exit Afghanistan.

Office of Legal Advisor gives update on BSA, NATO SOFA, ISAF News, December 19, 2014.

ISAF / USFOR-A BSA / SOFA FAQs, ISAF Legal Office, December 14, 2014

Office of ISAF Legal Advisor gives details on BSA, NATO SOFA, ISAF News, November 17, 2014

U.S./NATO Forces' Contractor Information Sheet, ISAF Legal Advisor, November 2014

History of the Bilateral Security Agreement with Afghanistan

The United States and Afghanistan had been conducting extensive negotiations about terms on an agreement for the the long-term presence of American troops in Afghanistan after December 2014. The negotiations had been going on for quite some time. The Bilateral Security Agreement sets the timeline, troop strength and conditions for the Resolute Support mission that begins in January 2015.

Troubled Talks in Past. A number of issues slowed the progress of finalizing the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to include U.S. detention practices, civilian casualties as a result of coalition air strikes, and use of SOF during night raids.

In September of 2013 the BSA talks were suspended on several critical issues. The Afghans wanted a U.S. guarantee of Afghanistan's borders, the U.S. wanted the ability to launch unilateral attacks against terrorist targets, and the U.S. wanted immunity for its servicemen from prosecution by the Afghan legal system. (Apparently, little thought was given to the status of U.S. contractors who would support the Resolute Support mission).

Karzai, of course, was being difficult. And once again, the U.S. was getting played. During the fall of 2013 Secretary Kerry went on a trip to Kabul to further the discussions. The guarantee of borders was reworded and it appears we caved on the ability to launch unilateral attacks within or from Afghanistan.

In October 2013 the hanging issue was immunity for U.S. troops - and that seemed to be the biggest issue - at least at that point in time.

Loya Jirga. President Karzai called a Loya Jirga to be held in the fall of 2013 to see where "the Afghan people" were on this issue; probably in an attempt to get political cover for signing the agreement. The Loya Jirga overwhelmingly approved the BSA agreement. However, despite the support for the agreement President Karzai slammed the U.S. in his closing speech at the Loya Jirga and said he would not sign the agreement; leaving it for his elected successor to sign.

Immunity for U.S. Military. The U.S. position on the most contentious issue was immunity and the U.S. stated that it would not stay past December 2014 without immunity for its servicemen.1.

A "Deadline" that isn't a Deadline. Although the deadline for signing was in the fall of 2013 that time came and went. Then it was to within 30 days of the conclusion of the Loya Jirga that was held in November 2013. Then it appeared to be the 'end of the year' (meaning 31 December 2013). Throughout 2014 the word was that the deadline was "weeks away, not months". The U.S. deadline kept going to right and the U.S. was as firm as quicksand on the deadline for signing the BSA.

Options if BSA was Not Signed. Some observes believed that the U.S., even without an agreement, could still be able to continue small-scale support to specialized forces, conduct a few special forces missions, and continue drone strikes and reconnaissance to keep an eye on al Qaeda activities. 2.

News Reports on Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with  Afghanistan

August 27, 2015. "New Bilateral Security Agreement deadline for contractors to take effect Sept. 1", Provisions include visa requirements, business licenses, arming agreements, and more. The BSA will cover approximately 35,000 U.S. DoD and NATO coalition contractors in Afghanistan as of August 2015.

September 28, 2014. "Afghanistan's new government set to sign BSA on Tuesday". Stars and Stripes.

March 12, 2014. "Dunford Briefs Senate on Progress in Afghanistan". American Forces Press Service. The signing of the BSA is a big part of the brief.

March 12, 2014. "Existing Afghan Deal Would Cover US Post-2014". Associated Press. The current Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed after 9/11 has no expiration date some legal experts claim.

March 12, 2014. "Dunford: Lack of Afghansitan agreement doesn't affect U.S. troops yet". Military Times. No BSA has little effect until the end of the summer.

March 6, 2014. "Austin: Afghan Government 'At Risk' Without International Forces". American Forces Press Service. Cdr CENTCOM speaking to Congress.

March 5, 2014. "Future of Afghan mission hangs on protection deal". Financial Review.

March 4, 2014. "Patience to Deal With Perceptions". By Fawzia Koofi, posted on The New York Times.

March 3, 2014. "Frustration With Afghanistan". The New York Times. The lack of a signed Bilateral Security Agreement has put Afghanistan's future in doubt.

March 2, 2014. "Interview: Karzai says 12-year Afghanistan war has left him angry at U.S. government". The Washington Post.

March 1, 2014. "Official Sees Hope in U.S. Willingness to Let New Afghan Leader Sign BSA". American Forces Press Service.

February 28, 2014. "Karzai Show No Indication of Signing Security Agreement". Voice of America.

February 27, 2014. "Karzai Blasts Dempsey Over 'Zero Option' Remarks". Defense One. Dempsey says Karzai is emboldening the enemy.

February 11, 2014. "U.S. said to mull shifting Afghanistan exit plans". UPI. Plan may just treat Karzai like the lame duck he is and ignore him.

February 9, 2014. "German FM Urges Afghan Leader to Sign U.S. Troop Deal". Defense News. He also spends time at Mazer-e-Sharif.

February 8, 2014. "Afghan soldiers desperate for pact with U.S. criticize President Karzai for delay". The Washington Post.

February 6, 2014. "US-Afghanistan: Implications of Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) - Analysis". Albany Tribune. The writer provides an indepth analysis of the BSA; going beyond the scatching of the surface that most observers have done.

February 4, 2014. "The Reality Beyond Zero and 10,000: Choosing a Meaningful Option in Afghanistan", by Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic & International Studies. Cordesman states the case for a meaningful plan by the Obama administration for the post-2014 U.S. role in Afghanistan.

January 27, 2014. "Lack of bilateral agreement would be blow to Afghan army, NATO chief says". Stars and Stripes.

January 23, 2014. "In lieu of Afghan security pact, NATO must remain flexible, defense chiefs say". Stars and Stripes. Perhaps we didn't need a deadline for the BSA after all?

January 14, 2014. "In Afghanistan, an alternate approach to a security pact". The Washington Post. A former national security advisor suggests putting aside the signing of the BSA until the Afghan election is over in April.

January 13, 2014. "Al Qaeda's Next Comeback Could Be Afghanistan and Pakistan". The Daily Beast. Bruce Riedel makes the case for the signing of the BSA and basing of a counter-terrorist capability in Afghanistan.

January 6, 2014. "White House: Afghan troop deal must be signed in weeks and not months". The Hill Blog. The Obama administration and senior U.S. military officials are finding out that they have little leverage over Karzai.

December 25, 2013. "If U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, much civilian aid may go too". Chicago Tribune. U.S. officials cite concern of non-signing of BSA.

December 23, 2013. "Karzai Standoff on Security Deal Sows Uncertainty". Voice of America News. News article points out that the stakes are high and the Afghan public believes the president needs to sign the agreement.

December 19, 2013. "Karzai's Dangerous Game". The New York Times. This article examines the motives of Karzai and warns that he has put a pistol to his countries head with loaded bullet chambers.

December 19, 2013. "Obama willing to extend deadline on U.S.-Afghanistan security deal". Los Angeles Times. The deadline of 31 December 2013 is not a "hard deadline" or "how the U.S. gets played by Karzai once again".

December 17, 2013. "A Top Iraqi Official's Advice to Karzai? Take America's Deal". The New York Times. The foreign minister of Iraq tells Karzai to get over your differences with the Americans and sign the deal before the Americans decide to leave.

October 19, 2013. "Afghans prepare for meeting on US security deal". Stars and Stripes. Up to 3,000 people may attend the Loya Jirga in late November to discuss and approve or disapprove the security agreement with the US to cover post-2014 activities. One of the biggest discussion points will be the topic of immunity for U.S. troops in Afghanistan; meaning that those U.S. military who commit crimes would be tried by U.S. military or civilian courts - and not under the Afghan court system.

October 17, 2013. "Afghan Agreement Likely Despite Last Minute Wrangling". Defense News.

October 12, 2013. "Karzai and Kerry: Headway in Afghanistan". Stars and Stripes. Possible advances in negotiation of BSA.

October 11, 2013. "In Afghanistan, U.S. losing patience as deadline for long-term deal nears". The Washington Post.

October 6, 2013. "U.S. at odds with Afghanistan over the post-withdrawal mission". The Los Angeles Times.

October 3, 2013. "Afghan officials say long-term security agreement with the U.S. is still on hold". The Washington Post.





1. To learn more about the issue of immunity for servicemen in Afghanistan read "Explainer: The Thorny Issue of Status of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan". Radio Free Europe.

2. For more on the limited options available to the U.S. if the BSA is not signed see "Analysis: Even if foreign troops leave Afghanistan, U.S. has some options", Reuters, December 23, 2013.



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