(Reuters) – The future of U.S. troops in Afghanistan remained in doubt on Friday after a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai rejected a U.S. call to sign a security pact by the end of the year rather than after next year’s presidential election.
The United States has repeatedly said it will not wait until after the April 2014 vote to seal the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) and rejected Karzai’s suggestion for the signing to take place next year “properly and with dignity”.
Without an accord, the United States could pull out most of its troops by the end of 2014, as it did two years ago when it failed to negotiate a deal with Iraq.
“We do not recognize any deadline from the U.S. side,” said Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Karzai, as Afghan tribal elders considered the pact for a second day. “They have set other deadlines also, so this is nothing new to us.”
Karzai had suggested on Thursday, as the Afghan leaders began a meeting known as a Loya Jirga, that the signing of the pact should wait until after the poll. Having served two terms, he is ineligible to run again.
In response, a White House spokesman said President Barack Obama wanted the BSA signed by the end of the year. Obama would decide about the further U.S. presence after Afghan authorities approved the deal, he added.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said this week the language of the accord had been agreed.
Faizi refused all comment on whether Karzai endorsed the plan. He said any action by the president depended strictly on the recommendation of the Loya Jirga.
“It is absolutely up to the Jirga to decide about the BSA. The president very clearly said good security, peace and good elections are the key to the signing of this document.”
Most participants at the gathering’s second day appeared to favor ratifying the pact. But reporters had little access to opponents of the deal and were kept away by security staff.
“We have to sign this agreement with the United States of America,” said Aminullah Mawiz Nooristani, an elder from eastern Nuristan province. “President Karzai has to sign it as soon as we announce our decision.” see more