(CNSNews.com) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai needs to quickly sign a security agreement that will allow U.S. troops to remain in the country when the war ends in 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.
"The U.S. wants success in Afghanistan, and success means having an Afghan armed force that has the ability to sustain itself and provide security to the people of Afghanistan so they can continue on the road to developing their society, their institutions, their health care system, their education and other things that are happening today."
Kerry noted that when the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan 12 years ago, there were 900,000 children in school, all of them boys. But he said today there are 7-8 million students, and almost 40 percent are girls. "So there's a huge transformation taking place, and we want to try to hold onto that."
Kerry said the U.S. cannot guarantee education for Afghan girls if a security agreement is not signed: "No, absolutely not. You can't guarantee anything, I think. If American forces were not there, I think there would be serious challenges with respect to Afghanistan's security. But -- here's the but. I believe that Hamid Karzai -- either he or his successor will sign this. Now, I think he needs to sign it."
Kerry said a security agreement hadn't even been negotiated a year ago. "Now we have an agreement that's been negotiated, and he has said to me personally and as recently as a day ago reiterated through his minister that the language is fine. So we are very close to the ability to move forward, and I believe it will be signed, and I hope it will be signed as soon as possible."
Kerry refused to give the "cut-off date" for getting a signed agreement from Karzai, saying only, "This needs to be signed as soon as possible, and I think he understands that."
Asked how long U.S. troops will have to stay in Afghanistan in an advisory role, Kerry said it's up to the president: "But the president has already said we are prepared to be there for a number of years going forward in a very different role, a very diminished role of training, advising and equipping the Afghans."
Asked if counter-terrorism operations would involve combat, Kerry said, "not automatically, not directly."
"It can be intel gathering, it can be providing information to the Afghans that they act on, and in some cases, it might wind up being kinetic by American forces. But the point is, it's not day-to-day combat against the Taliban and the half of the Afghan people. It's counter-terrorism to fight against terrorists, al-Qaida, the Haqqani network, others who are threatening American assets and America itself.