Kabul: Afghanistan on Friday rebuffed a US demand to sign a highly anticipated security pact as soon as possible, insisting the document must wait until after next year`s presidential election.
Washington warned Kabul yesterday to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) pact as soon as possible, with senior officials hinting that delaying beyond the end of this year could mean no post-2014 US troop presence.
The latest US run-in with President Hamid Karzai was set off by the Afghan leader`s statement that the painstakingly negotiated pact would not be signed until after the election in April.
US officials bristled, saying the deal, which governs the conditions of any post-war American counter-terrorism and training mission in Afghanistan, must be signed by the end of the year.
The White House said it needed a swift decision from Karzai to start planning the footprint of any US forces, and warned 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.
Karzai had said 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".
His spokesman Aimal Faizi stood firm on the issue today.
"Security, peace and good elections are key to the signing of the BSA," Faizi said.
"Let`s wait and see what will the loya jirga decide on the document. If approved, as the president said, it will be signed after elections."
Senior US officials speaking on condition of anonymity were blunt, warning that it was not practical for the BSA to await the signature of the next Afghan president.
They said that if there were no BSA in force, there would be no US troop garrison in Afghanistan after NATO combat troops leave in 2014.
Karzai yesterday told jirga delegates that the BSA would allow up to 15,000 foreign troops to stay in the war-torn country.
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.