Nightly News   |  November 26, 2013

US general: 'We are on a positive path' in Afghanistan

The US-Afghan deal is on shaky ground now that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is upping the ante and making new demands. An Afghanistan commander said his forces are still dependent on U.S. Gen. James McConville, who commands about 10,000 troops in eastern Afghanistan. But no U.S.-Afghan deal may mean McConville’s troops and the Afghan soldiers are in limbo. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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>>> overseas in afghanistan , the deal for what happens after u.s. combat troops leave next year is suddenly on very shaky ground tonight. afghanistan 's president hamid karzai upping the ante now, making new demands in a meeting with national security adviser susan rice , saying he needs more concessions to let american troops stay in his country even on a noncombat basis. deal or no deal , the americans still on the ground are in a tough spot preparing to come home with so much work still ahead. our chief foreign correspondent richard engel has our report tonight from forward operating base gambari in eastern afghanistan . richard, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. this deal does seem to be in jeopardy. and for american troops on outposts like this one and others like it, it's personal. they and their families are trying to determine whether american forces will still have to deploy to this country in the future or whether the war in afghanistan will truly be over next year. soldiers from the 10th mountain division lock and load and roll out, heading down to what may be the most chaotic border in the world. the crossing to pakistan. only about half the people in trucks are screened at all. this is supposed to be one of the main routes out of afghanistan for tons and tons of american supplies, but sometimes the pakistanis close this border crossing to u.s. equipment. it's closed right now. other times it's just too dangerous. there was a suicide attack here a few days ago. captain kevin bolt is responsible for monitoring the crossing and worries what might happen if there's no u.s. presence and the afghan troops he's training aren't ready to handle it.

>> we definitely want to make sure we get the most out of the time and blood and sweat spent in afghanistan .

>> reporter: major general james mcconville from the 101st airborne is the commander of 10,000 troops in eastern afghanistan . he took us on a chopper ride to show progress. we flew over bases mcconville has shut down. the general from boston ran 58 last spring. it's down to 13 now. the rest transferred to the afghan army and police. we landed at one run by an afghan general. he told us his forces are still dependent on mcconville for a lot.

>> we need further air support . we need further training. we need intelligence support.

>> reporter: when does that final parenthesis go on the war? it opened 2001 . it closes when?

>> i don't know. i don't know when the actual end is. what i know is we're on a positive path. a positive trend right now for the afghans having really a true opportunity for a future.

>> reporter: but no deal means they and the men they command are in limbo. afghanistan 's future and the legacy of america's longest war are now open questions . analysts here say karzai is probably negotiating, but he also risks losing the most powerful backer this country has ever had. brian?

>> richard engel live from afghanistan