WASHINGTON, D.C.: The United States (US) on Thursday (Friday in Manila) warned Afghanistan to sign a new security pact as soon as possible, as top officials hinted that prolonged delays could mean no post-2014 US troop presence.
Washington’s latest run-in with President Hamid Karzai was set off by the Afghan leader’s statement that the painstakingly negotiated pact should not be signed until after his country’s next election in April.
But US officials bristled, saying the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which governs conditions of any post-war American counter terrorism and training mission in Afghanistan, must be signed by the end of the year.
“We must move forward as quickly as possible to sign the agreement,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
The White House said it needed a swift decision from Karzai to start planning the footprint of any US forces, and trying to exert leverage, said Obama had not yet decided on whether to keep US forces in Afghanistan.
“Failure to get this approved and signed by the end of the year would prevent the United States and our allies from being able to plan for a post-2014 presence,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
“We have not yet determined whether or not a troop presence will continue in Afghanistan,” Earnest said.
Other senior officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, were more blunt, warning that it was not practical for the BSA to await the signature of the next Afghan president.
They said that if there was no BSA in force, there would be no post-2014 US troop garrison in Afghanistan after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization combat troops leave.
Karzai said the BSA would allow up to 15,000 foreign troops to stay in the war-torn country.
He also warned the pact currently under consideration by a loya jirga, a meeting of tribal chieftains, could only be signed “when our elections are conducted, correctly and with dignity.”
Afghanistan goes to the polls on April 5 to elect a successor to Karzai, who must step down after his two terms. A credible election is seen as crucial to the country’s future stability.
The BSA governs the terms and legal status of US troops who might stay behind in Afghanistan, and the draft, which must also be approved by the Afghan parliament, emerged after tortuous negotiations.