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Pakistan supports all actions including the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) signed between the new Afghan government and the United States aimed at restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan, Tasnim Aslam, Foreign Office Spokesperson said but did not respond to a query about Pakistan's major concern over Article-6 of the agreement, which deals with "external aggression."

"It's a decision taken by the elected government of Afghanistan. As a sovereign country, Afghanistan is the best judge of its own interests," Tasnim Aslam said in response to a query by Business Recorder about Pakistan's stance on BSA. During the course of finalisation of the agreement in November last year, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs that Pakistan has expressed concern over a portion (Article 6) of the pact which deals with "external aggression" against Afghanistan. He said Pakistan was engaged with the US to define "foreign aggression" as well as United States military assistance to Afghanistan in case of that "aggression".

Article-6 of the security pact, the text of which is posted on the official website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stipulates: "On a regular basis, the parties [US & Afghanistan] shall consult on potential political, diplomatic, military, and economic measures that could form part of an appropriate response in the event of such external aggression or the threat of external aggression against Afghanistan. Consultations shall seek to develop a list of political, diplomatic, military, and economic measures."

It further states that "in the event of external aggression or the threat of external aggression against Afghanistan, the parties [US & Afghanistan] shall hold consultations on an urgent basis to develop and implement an appropriate response, including, as may be mutually determined, consideration of available political, diplomatic, military, and economic measures ..., in accordance with their respective constitutional procedures."

"Our job now is to support Afghanistan for the Afghans. As envisioned in the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement, the Bilateral Security Agreement will allow the United States to continue to train, advise and assist Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), so that terrorists can never again threaten the world from Afghan soil," said US Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement also received here Wednesday.

He pointed out that the Nato Status of Forces Agreement will ensure that international efforts to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) continue full speed ahead after the International Security Assistance Force mission concludes at the end of this year.

However, analysts see numerous implications of the continued presence of the US and Nato forces in the region, saying that it will provide an excuse for the militants to continue their terror operation in Afghanistan and beyond. "By signing this agreement, you are not ending the ongoing militancy in Afghanistan and the region. Presence of US and Nato forces in the region means the status-quo and US occupation of Afghanistan will remain...hence militancy will continue," warned Rustam Shah Mohmand, security analyst and Pakistan's former ambassador to Afghanistan.

Mohmand maintains that the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan will continue to remain the same - "neither better nor worse." He however acknowledged that in the presence of US troops across the border, a better working relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan will also be in the best US interest.

Relations between the two neighbours will continue to remain fragile because of issues like TTP militant safe heavens on Afghan soil, and similar allegations by the Afghan government regarding their insurgents taking shelter on Pakistan's soil, he added. The Security and Defence Co-operation Agreement (SDCA), also known as Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), will allow 9,800 US and at least 2,000 Nato troops to remain in Afghanistan after the international combat mission formally ends on December 31, 2014. Most of the troops will help train and assist the struggling Afghan security forces, although some American Special Operations forces will remain to conduct counterterrorism missions.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2014

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