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Although Gen. Dempsey said earlier in the week that the United States has plans to leave a residual force, a failure to strike a deal on immunity would torpedo any security agreement and lead to a complete pullout of U.S. forces after 2014 — as it did in post-war Iraq. It is widely believed that no NATO-member nation would allow its troops to remain after 2014 to train or engage in counterterrorism activities without a similar deal.

The head of NATO joint command in Europe, German Gen. Hans-Lothar Domrose, said the alliance already is making plans for a post-2014 presence, plans he said that are “all well advanced.”

Gen. Allen, 59, of Warrenton, Va., was the longest-serving ISAFcommander so far. Nearly two dozen generals have commanded troops from the United States and ISAF since the American invasion in late 2001 — with six U.S. generals, including Gen. Dunford, running both commands in the past five years alone.

Also attending the ceremony were U.S. Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of the U.S. Central Command, and Gen. James Amos, head of the Marine Corps. Mr. Karzai did not attend.