- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2012

U.S. and Afghan officials on Tuesday resumed discussions on an agreement that will commit the United States to the Central Asian nation long after foreign troops leave in 2014.

“Our negotiators are back in business today,” Marc Grossman, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said at the United States Institute of Peace.

The absence of a clear information about U.S. engagement in Afghanistan after 2014 has caused much anxiety in the region, he added.

“The sooner we can sign the [strategic partnership document] with Afghanistan, people then will have to realize that there is going to be an American presence in Afghanistan for some time to come,” Mr. Grossman said.

“So Afghans, the Taliban, the region, including Iran, will then say ‘Aha, well now how do I react to that?’”

U.S. and Afghan officials on Sunday signed an agreement on controversial night raids against suspected Taliban fighters.

In March, negotiators agreed to transfer the U.S. detention facility in Bagram to the control of the Afghan Defense Ministry.

These two agreements “open the door for the strategic partnership document,” Mr. Grossman said.

“The [strategic partnership document] is just one part of the message that after 2014 there will be an American engagement in Afghanistan,” he said.

U.S. and Afghan officials hope to have the strategic partnership document ready to be signed by President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai before a NATO summit on Afghanistan in Chicago next month.