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US Looking for Longterm Immunity Deal with Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. may be hamstrung again if it attempts to leave a sizeable force in Afghanistan following the intended withdrawal of most American and NATO troops sometime in 2014.

At the end of 2011, President Obama couldn't strike a deal with the Iraqis to extend legal immunity for soldiers from potentially criminal acts committed during war and the same thing could happen with the Afghans.

With at least a year before any major drawdowns occur, the Pentagon and State Department have the advantage of time in trying to nail down an agreement that would keep any remaining American troops from being charged with crimes and brought up before Afghan courts.

Asked about it on Wednesday during a press briefing, Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters, "I think there’s likelihood that protections for U.S. personnel are obviously part of any [Status of Forces Agreement] discussion, so I would expect that to be on the agenda.  But we’re not to the point yet where any decisions have been reached by either side on specific legal provisions in an agreement."

Little didn't say whether the U.S. might be more flexible with President Hamid Karzai's government in that failing to achieve iron-clad immunity might not be a prerequisite for keeping several thousand boots on the ground past the 2014 deadline to withdraw.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio