During their conversation both Kerry and Karzai reiterated the importance of moving toward agreement on the BSA. "President Karzai invited the Secretary to attend the Loya Jirga and Secretary Kerry thanked him for the invitation, but conveyed that it would not be possible for him to attend this week," a Senior US State Department Official said on Tuesday.

According to the official who spoke on condition of anonymity, Karzai asked for reassurances that he could communicate to the Loya Jirga regarding the nature of the security relationship going forward and addressing past issues such as civilian casualties.
    
"Kerry indicated that we want to continue working together to find a path forward, and that we will consider his request for reassurances including the option of a letter from the Administration stating our position," the official said, adding that the Secretary of State also conveyed that it was important to move forward given the need for certainty and for the United States and its partners to plan ahead.
    
Meanwhile the White House said there are ongoing negotiations, but the general agreement has been in place since last month when Kerry travelled to Kabul to hold a meeting with Karzai.
    
"This negotiation or this agreement is not reached until the loya Jirga has passed judgement on it," he said hoping that the Loya Jirga would soon approve it.White House Press Secretary Jay Carney conceded that the issue of raids is one of the subjects of negotiation and conversation and consultation with the Afghans.
    
The general issue of civilian casualties has of course been of concern, understandably, to the Afghan government and concern to the United States and to the administration, to the US military, which takes extraordinary precautions to avoid civilian casualties, he said.
    
"I would reiterate that we take every precaution to prevent civilian casualties, and we always express regret when civilians are killed. This is not a new issue in our relationship. It's one we've discussed openly in the past, and it's one we continue to work through," Carney said when asked about news reports that Karzai has sought a letter from Obama on assurances from the US on civilian casualties.

"I think it is notable that our concern about potential civilian casualties is reflected in the extreme care taken by our military forces in Afghanistan," he said.
      
At the same time Carney reiterated that the war in Afghanistan will end next year. "The combat mission will be over...we would potentially come to an agreement with Afghanistan to engage in counter terrorist operations...," he said.
      
"It would be a very limited mission to assist Afghanistan in its counter-terrorism operations and to assist in the training and equipping of Afghan troops. That has been something that we've been discussing now for quite some time," he said.
      
"And if an agreement is reached and it is approved, we would certainly look at what limited troop presence might be required to fulfill that mission, counterterrorism and training and equipping of Afghan troops. That is not the war that we've been engaged in now for more than a decade," Carney added.

(Agencies)

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