WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Wednesday that the United States and Afghanistan had finalized the wording of a bilateral security agreement that would allow for a lasting U.S. troop presence through 2024 and set the stage for billions of dollars of international assistance to keep flowing to the government in Kabul.
The deal, which now will be presented for approval by an Afghan grand council of elders starting today, came after days of brinkmanship by Afghan officials and two direct calls from Kerry to President Hamid Karzai, including one on Wednesday before the announcement.
Just the day before, a senior aide to Karzai had said the Afghan leader would not approve an agreement unless President Barack Obama sent a letter acknowledging U.S. military mistakes during the 12-year war. But on Wednesday, Kerry emphatically insisted that a deal was reached with no American apology forthcoming.
"President Karzai didn't ask for an apology. There was no discussion of an apology," Kerry said.
After a 12-year war that stands as the longest in U.S. history, the security agreement defines a training and counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan lasting at least another 10 years and involving an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 troops, mostly American.