White House pushes for US-Afghan security pact by end of year

White House pushes for US-Afghan security pact by end of year
President Barack Obama wants a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan signed by the end of the year – and the decision on US troops pulling out will be made after that. This comes after Afghan president Hamid Karzai hinted at a delay until April.

The White House has objected to Karzai’s plan that would not see the security deal agreed upon until after next year’s presidential elections in Afghanistan.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Friday that the Afghan government should “get this agreement signed and approved by the end of this year”.

US officials have been quite clear that without a security deal there would be no mandate for US troops to remain in the country beyond the end of 2014 when the NATO mission there is due to end.

Obama said Thursday he can’t make a decision about what the American military presence will be until after the Afghan government has signed the deal.

"The presence that is in Afghanistan right now is a NATO presence.  So the United States needs to conduct some planning, both internally but also with our allies, to coordinate what our post-2014 presence will look like," said Earnest.

The US hasn’t determined the number of troops that would theoretically stay on beyond 2014, but at most it would be a few thousand to help Afghan forces deal the Taliban insurgency.

But Karzai is in no rush to sign. Karzai told an assembly of 2,500 tribal elders and political leaders from across Afghanistan that an agreement would have to wait until after the presidential election in April 2014, although Karzai himself cannot run for president again.

“This pact should be signed when the election has already taken place, properly and with dignity,” he told the elders Thursday. 

The Afghan president has appeared wary of being too closely associated with the security agreement, which may be viewed as an open ended invitation for foreign troops to remain in the country. Foreign forces are not popular with the majority of Afghanis and have been blamed for the killing of innocent civilians.

“President Karzai just doesn’t want this agreement. He kept handling the responsibility for agreeing or not agreeing to the agreement to the people of the hall, to the delegates of the Loya Jirga,” [grand council of tribal elders] Kate Clark the head of the Kabul-based Afghanistan analysts Network, a think tank, told Reuters.

But some voices in America have threatened that if there is no quick agreement then the US and other countries would simply withdraw all troops at the end of 2014.

“I think delaying signing to April will make it much more difficult for us to make our commitments. It’ll make it more difficult – and make it virtually impossible for other countries to make their commitments,” James Dobbins, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, told PBS news hour.

Afghanistan is expected to pass the agreement due to the precarious security situation in the country but the US insistence that it has legal control over its own troops may further hold up a decision.

President Karzai is in a very delicate position with this agreement, anti-war activist Brian Becker told RT.

“Karzai is worried of course that he owes his existence to the presence of the American forces that have kept him in power,” Becker said. “And yet at the same time he knows that millions of Afghans resent, are angry, have indignation about the fact that the United States government has run a rough shod over their country for the last 12 years.”

US attitude towards Afghanistan is a clear instance of a “colonial relationship,” Becker said. 

“What the United States is proposing is that the US will maintain military bases and soldiers in Afghanistan for a quarter of a century,” he said. “US invades and occupies the country, uses various pretext, and then maintains military bases so that ultimately whoever is the government after Karzai, the US will be the determiner, the real power in Afghanistan.”