Nightly News   |  November 21, 2013

US-Afghan deal would provide American troops for another decade

More than 2000 Afghan tribal elders gathered to debate a deal that could cost the US billions, and leave thousands of American troops in Afghanistan for years to come. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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>>> tonight the obama administration is pushing back hard on reports that thousands of u.s. troops could remain in afghanistan for another decade or more as part of a deal now being debated in that country. our chief correspondent richard engle has that report tonight from kabul .

>> reporter: on patrol over kabul with the afghan air force . security hype. more than 2,000 tribal elders gathered today to debate a deal that could cost the u.s. billions and leave thousands of american troops here for years. president karzai asked them to accept the deal, assuring them that american soldiers won't be doing combat missions anymore. karzai also referenced a letter from president obama confirmed by the white house , promising the u.s. will, quote, make every effort to respect the sanctity and dignity of afghans in their homes just as we do for our own citizens. if a deal, they will pay for afghan security forces , allow the u.s. to keep bases with troops, weapons and aircraft valid to 2024 . president karzai told his people 15,000 troops, mostly americans, will remain in afghanistan for another 10 years and then gradually draw down. they would be operating from at least nine bases nationwide as trainers, mostly. but this is a hostile environment that effectively tacks on another decade to america's longest war . the white house has a different take as secretary of state kerry told andrea mitchell today.

>> let me state this very clearly.

>> please.

>> we are not talking about years and years. that is not what is contemplated.

>> that's what the afghans say and the nfc confirmed the letter from the president.

>> that is not what is contemplated, years and years. it is way shorter than any kind of years and years.

>> when he tells me he's ready --

>> reporter: american troops here already train and advise afghan forces.

>> they are here to prove to everybody that they can do this, and they're on their way.

>> reporter: but ten more years?

>> it sure sounds like a commitment to an endless war . 2024 is a long, long time from now.

>> reporter: afghans say without u.s. support, the taliban grows, civil war returns. they are counting on the u.s. for the long haul. richard engle, nbc news, kabul .