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U.S., Afghanistan Reach Tentative Security Pact

Secretary of State John Kerry says he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have agreed on the text of a security agreement that would allow U.S. troops to stay on the ground in the South Asian country beyond 2014.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that after numerous phone calls, Kerry says he and Karzai reached terms for a "limited role" for U.S. troops that would be confined to training, equipping and assisting Afghan forces.

"There is no combat role for U.S. forces and the bilateral security agreement is an effort to try to clarify for Afghans and for U.S. military forces exactly what the rules are for that ongoing relationship," Kerry says.

The draft agreement goes on Thursday to a group of Afghan elders, known as a loya jirga, for their approval.

However, as The Associated Press notes:

"Approval by the traditional council of 3,000 prominent Afghans is not guaranteed. The group can revise or reject any clause of the draft agreement, and a flat-out rejection would most likely prevent the Afghan government from signing it."

There was discussion earlier that Karzai had demanded the U.S. apologize for civilian casualties during fighting in Afghanistan, but Kerry flatly says that was "not on the table."

"The important thing for people to understand is there has never been a discussion of or the word 'apology' used in our discussions whatsoever," he told reporters.

Update at 8:30 p.m. ET. Accord Reportedly Meets U.S. Conditions:

The Associated Press reports:

"A draft accord released by the Afghan government appears to meet U.S. demands on such controversial issues as whether U.S. troops would unilaterally conduct counterterrorism operations, enter Afghan homes or protect the country from outside attack.

Without the accord, Washington has warned it could withdraw its troops by the end of next year and leave Afghan forces to fight a Taliban-led insurgency without their help."

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