U.S. Pressure Won't Move Karzai on Security Pact, Aide Says

By:  Jack Kenny
U.S. Pressure Won't Move Karzai on Security Pact, Aide Says

An aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused the United States of trying to pressure the Kabul government into signing the Biliateral Security Agreement that would keep U.S. and other NATO forces in Afghanistan for 10 or more years beyond the deadline for withdrawal of combat units by the end of next year.

"There is no doubt that certain elements within the Afghan government are facing pressure from the U.S." to get Karzai to sign the BSA, Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for the Afghan president, wrote in an e-mail to the Reuters news service on Friday. "However, this will not achieve anything," he added.

There are 47,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 100,000 in 2010. The Obama administration has been negotiating with Afghan officials over maintaining a residual force of about 8,000 to train, equip, and provide logistical support for the Afghan army and police in their battle against insurgent Taliban forces. The agreement would, according to its text, "remain in force until the end of 2024 and beyond."

The pact has been approved by the assembly of tribal elders convened by the president, but Karzai wants to add conditions limiting the role of foreign troops outside their bases and banning American counterterrorism raids in Afghan homes and villages. He is also reported to be asking for the freeing of several prisoners held by the United States at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Karzai has also said he might not sign the agreement until after his successor is elected in April, further frustrating U.S. officials, who say they need to have the agreement made final by the end of this year to allow for the military planning necessary for the new role for the forces that will remain after the end of the NATO combat mission in December 2014.

The impasse is similar to what occurred between the United States and Iraq at the end of 2011, when Washington and Baghdad were unable to come to terms on the extension of the Status of Forces Agreement for the continued presence in Iraq of U.S. and coalition combat units. The agreement expired when the Iraqi government would not agree to the U.S. condition of immunity from Iraqi prosecution of U.S. personnel accused of committing crimes in that country. The last of the U.S. combat units left Iraq in December, 2001, though a residual force has remained to train and assist Iraq's security forces.

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Photo of Hamid Karzai (right) and Anders Fogh Rasmussen

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