‘Afghanistan in no rush to sign US pact’

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says his government is in no rush to conclude a deal with the United States on how many American troops will stay in the country after NATO-led troops wind down their military operation in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

“Although the Americans asked for October, we are not in a hurry and if the document is agreed upon during this government, good,” Karzai told reporters at his Kabul palace on Saturday.

He added, “And if not, the next president can discuss whether or not to accept it.”

The United States has been exerting pressure on Afghanistan to sign a bilateral security agreement (BSA), which will mandate how many and where US soldiers will remain once the US-led NATO mission terminates.

While US diplomats have said they want the security agreement to be a done deal by October, Karzai has said he would wait until after April 2014 presidential elections before making any commitment.

Karzai has also reproached the United States on multiple occasions over civilian deaths.

The talks between Washington and Kabul on the BSA were suspended in June after US officials attempted to hold peace talks with the Taliban, and opened a Taliban office in the Qatari capital city of Doha.

The move enraged Karzai, who said it looked like an attempt by the Americans to cut him out of the political process.

Last month, a senior US defense official said Washington could withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan in case it cannot reach a deal with Kabul on legal guarantees for American troops.

NATO’s former top military commander, James Stavridis, says he believes nearly 15,000 foreign troops, made up of about 9,000 US troops and about 6,000 forces from other countries, should be kept in Afghanistan.

US military officials, however, support a smaller force of 8,000 to 12,000 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan.

The commander of international forces in Afghanistan, US General Joseph Dunford, said in a recent interview that he had discussions “at every level from district and province to members of parliament … to President Karzai” and he was adamant the pact would be signed.


…read more

Republished from: Press TV