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The US war in Afghanistan could last more than 20 years

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Document uncovered by NBC News reveals US troops could remain in Afghanistan through 2024

Army soldiers using cell phone
Army soldiers using cell phone

NBC News has obtained a key security document that outlines that the United States is prepared to maintain military outposts and troops in Afghanistan while supporting the Afghan security force through 2024 and beyond. The news paints a picture of postwar Afghanistan where American troops are an ongoing presence, even as foreign leaders push to reduce the presence of combat troops in the region.

Another decade in America's longest war

The 25-page long "Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan" is dated July 25, 2013, and has not yet been signed — NBC News reports that the updated agreement will be debated this week in Kabul by 2,500 village elders, academics, and officials. The document states that US and Afghanistan will "foster close cooperation" in fighting al Qaeda, specifically in training the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) and conducting combined military exercises. According to the document, the US will also "have an obligation to seek funds on a yearly basis to support the training, equipping, advising and sustaining of the Afghan National Security Forces" until the Afghan military is equipped to pay for its own defense. No specific amount is mentioned, however.

All told, the draft states that the agreement would take effect on January 1st, 2015 and stay active until the end of 2024 and beyond, unless either or both nations call for an end to the agreement in writing with two years' notice. That means the 10,000 troops expected to remain in the embattled region will be stationed there for at least another decade. Afghan officials told NBC News that the agreement is critical for the country's future stability, as it ensures the government doesn't collapse and Afghanistan enters a civil war. We've reached out to the White House National Security Council for comment.

Interestingly, the document makes no mention of drone combat or deployment, so it's still unclear what role unmanned aerial vehicles will play in the ongoing war. However, if the White House and Afghan leaders agree on the deal in its present form, it potentially serves to extend an already exhausting and expensive war another full decade.