KABUL – With negotiations over terms for some U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan after next year at an impasse, Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit to the Afghan capital Friday to bargain directly with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Kerry, who has a long relationship with the mercurial Afghan leader, is trying to help bridge the last sticking points that have prevented the two countries from reaching a deal, State Department officials traveling with Kerry said.
Karzai made friendly small talk with Kerry at the start of a meeting at his palace. The session ran more than an hour, and was followed by dinner. Talks are expected to continue after Kerry’s visit, but he will stress the need to secure a deal by month’s end, officials said. Talks are stalled over Afghan demands for greater control and access to U.S. intelligence and U.S. insistence that remaining forces not be subject to Afghan law.
The “bilateral security agreement” is supposed to assure Afghans of an ongoing U.S. commitment and to protect the estimated 5,000 to 10,000 U.S. forces expected to carry out training and counterterrorism missions after the NATO-led international mission ends in 2014. Kerry is making a last-ditch appeal to Karzai, trying to convince him that the deal is in Afghan interests and that Karzai risks losing both U.S. and NATO pledges of aid and cooperation if the pact is not forged.