"As mutually agreed by NATO and the Government of Afghanistan, we have decided to open negotiations on the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA)," the NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in the statement issued by the ISAF forces.
"I welcome the start of these talks today, at a meeting of NATO 's Senior Civilian Representative Ambassador Maurits Jochems with the Afghan National Security Adviser Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, while stressing that the NATO Status of Forces Agreement will not be concluded or signed until the signature of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the Governments of Afghanistan and the United States," said Rasmussen.
The Status of Forces Agreement will constitute a key element of the legal framework needed for the deployment of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces after 2014, as agreed with the Afghan government at the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, he said.
The BSA governs the future of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014. Washington wanted Kabul to get it inked by the end of 2013. Nevertheless, Karzai said that the BSA would not be signed until the presidential election on April 5, 2014.
The president initially endorsed such a deal, but has put forward new conditions including promise by Washington not to allow its forces to conduct counter-terrorism raids on Afghan homes and U.S. agreement to free Afghan prisoners held at Guantanamo Prison.
Local analysts said if the two sides fail to reach the deal, the United States will consider the complete withdrawal of troops, similar to the pull-out of U.S. troops from Iraq two years ago.
More than 84,000 NATO-led foreign troops, with 60,000 of them Americans, are currently being deployed in Afghanistan.