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Karzai: U.S. wants use of 9 bases in Afghanistan after 2014

KABUL, Afghanistan – The United States has requested the use of nine large military bases in Afghanistan after international forces complete their combat mission here at the end of next year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday.

In the first public disclosure of the number of bases under discussion in security talks between the U.S. and Afghanistan, Karzai indicated that he would agree to the U.S. request. But he said Washington must provide unspecified "security and economic" guarantees in return.

"If these conditions are met, we are ready to sign the contract with the United States," Karzai said in a speech at Kabul University, referring to the bilateral security arrangement now under negotiation.

He added: "Our conditions are to bring security in Afghanistan, strengthen Afghanistan’s security forces, provide concrete economic support and to have a strong and positive government.’’

Since Nov. 15, American and Afghan negotiators have been hammering out post-2014 security arrangements. The agreement will not determine the number of U.S. troops, if any, deployed to Afghanistan after 2014. That decision ultimately will be made by President Obama and his national security team.

The U.S. request for nine bases was included in the most recent U.S. draft proposal, presented last month, Aimal Faizy, Karzai’s spokesman, said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Karzai said the bases are Bagram Air Field near Kabul, Kandahar Air Field and bases in Kabul, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif, Gardez, Helmand Province, Shindand and Herat. Those are among the largest bases now housing U.S. and coalition forces.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, David D. Snepp, declined to discuss the security talks.

"We have not and will not comment on specifics on this ongoing negotiation," Snepp said in an email. "As President Obama has made clear, we do not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan. We envision that this BSA [Bilateral Security Agreement] will address access to and use of Afghan facilities by U.S. forces in the future."

The U.S. draft request provides a general indication of the scope of any post-2014 military mission now under consideration by the Obama administration. However, the number of bases used by U.S. troops could change before any final security agreement is signed. The deadline is Nov. 15, but U.S. officials have said they expect an agreement well before then.

The U.S. and other NATO nations have built and maintained hundreds of military bases in Afghanistan, from the massive air bases at Bagram and Kandahar to small combat outposts manned by a handful of troops.  The security talks, which have been held in Washington and Kabul, will determine U.S. payments for use of bases after 2014.

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Special Correspondent Hashmat Baktash contributed to this report.

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