KABUL: US national security advisor Susan Rice told Afghan President Hamid Karzai Monday that a delay in signing a troubled security deal risked the US pulling troops out of the country completely next year.
The US said that Karzai had called for “new conditions” for signing the bilateral security agreement (BSA) to allow US forces to remain in the country after 2014.
The president held talks with Rice in Kabul after he hedged on when he would accept the deal despite a “loya jirga” assembly of Afghan tribal elders and politicians on Sunday urging him to sign it promptly.
“Without a prompt signature, the US would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no US or Nato troop presence in Afghanistan,” Rice told Karzai, according to a White House statement Monday.
“Ambassador Rice stressed... that deferring the signature of the agreement until after next year's elections is not viable” when she met with Karzai at the end of a three-day trip to Kabul, it added. Washington was ready to sign the deal in the coming days following the loya jirga's decision, the statement said.
But “in response, President Karzai outlined new conditions for signing the agreement and indicated he is not prepared to sign the BSA promptly”.
Karzai stressed his demands for “no operations by foreign forces in residential areas, a sincere start of a peace process (with Taliban insurgents), and the holding of transparent elections,” his office said after Monday's late-night meeting.
At the tribal assembly last week in Kabul, Karzai exasperated Washington by saying he wanted to delay signing the deal until after April's presidential election, when he is due to step down.
The BSA will permit some US soldiers to remain after the end of 2014 when most of Nato's 75,000 US-led troops pull out.
“We believe it's untenable and impractical to wait until January to have this thing concluded,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told reporters Monday.
“We want it closed. The American government wants it. The Afghan people want it, so Karzai needs to sign.”Supporters say the BSA is vital because the Afghan government remains fragile despite 12 years of war against the Taliban.