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After Vice President Joe Biden pledged that the Obama administration would bring all U.S. troops home from Afghanistan in 2014 "period" during the VP debate last week, a State Department official on Tuesday said formal negotiations are set to begin over the extension of U.S. troops past 2014, Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin reports.
U.S. and Afghan negotiators reportedly met in Kabul to discuss the Bilateral Security Agreement that will lay out the details of the extension.
President Barack Obama has also said the combat mission in Afghanistan will end in 2014 and that the United States will turn government control over to Afghanistan.
One of Biden's most impassioned statements made to Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan during last week's debate was about U.S. troops leaving Afghanistan. Ryan said the situation needs to be assessed in 2014 and advised against making a national security decision years in advance.
"We are leaving in 2014, period," Biden said. "We've been in this war for over a decade. The primary objective is almost completed. Now all we're doing is putting the Kabul government in a position to be able to maintain their own security. It's their responsibility, not America's."
As The Washington Free Beacon points out, "This makes the third Biden debate claim the administration or campaign has since walked back or clarified."
Marc Grossman, the State Department's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, explained today that's not the whole story.
Grossman said Tuesday that the point of the upcoming negotiations is to agree on an extension of the U.S. troop presence well past 2014, for the purposes of conducting counterterrorism operations and training and advising the Afghan security forces.
In May, Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement that promised an ongoing U.S. commitment to Afghanistan through 2024. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Oct. 3 that Grossman's deputy, James Warlick, will be the lead U.S. negotiator for the Bilateral Security Agreement that will follow. Karzai's Ambassador to Washington Eklil Hakimi will lead the negotiations for the Afghan side.
Grossman said that while meetings on "how we will manage our forces going forward in Afghanistan," have already taken place, formal negotiations have not yet begun. Once the negotiations formally start, the Bilateral Security Agreement must be completed within one year, according to the Strategic Partnership agreement, Grossman explained.
To read the entire report, click here.