Washington: US National Security Advisor Susan Rice told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Washington could not wait until after the 2014 Afghan elections to sign a security pact and, without a deal, may have to plan to leave no troops behind next year.
"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 yesterday, according to a White House statement.
"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 after the loya jirga, or traditional assembly, urged the Afghan leader to sign the bilateral security agreement (BSA), Rice said.
But "in response, President Karzai outlined new conditions for signing the agreement and indicated he is not prepared to sign the BSA promptly," the White House said.
Rice argued that waiting to sign the deal, which is meant to provide the legal protection for US troops remaining in the country, "would not provide the United States and NATO allies the clarity necessary to plan for a potential post-2014 military presence."
"Nor would it provide Afghans with the certainty they deserve regarding their future, in the critical months preceding elections," Rice told Karzai as they met over dinner on the last day of her visit.
She warned too that "the lack of a signed BSA would jeopardise NATO and other nations` pledges of assistance made at the Chicago and Tokyo conferences in 2012."