Afghan President Hamid Karzai met U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice Monday evening and refused to back down on his decision not to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) by the end of the year.
The pact was voted in favor of by the Loya Jirga in Kabul last week, and would allow thousands of U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends in 2014.
Ambassador Rice told President Karzai his proposal to delay the signing until after next year’s elections was “not viable.”
Her meeting with Karzai comes a day after the four-day Loya Jirga concluded on Sunday. A majority of the 2,500-member Jirga called on President Karzai to sign the document by the end of this year.
But the Afghan president has said he will not sign the pact until after the April elections and laid out three preconditions to the U.S. for signing: transparent elections in April, no raids on Afghan homes and a breakthrough in talks with the Taliban.
He said now that the Jirga has endorsed the document, he will continue bargaining with officials in Washington over his three pre-conditions.
“President Karzai outlined new conditions for signing the agreement and indicated he is not prepared to sign the bilateral security agreement (BSA) promptly,” the White House statement said.
Washington insists the deal, which has taken over a year to negotiate, must be signed before the end of this year in order to secure plans for how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
Rice said in Monday’s meeting that waiting to sign the deal “would not provide the United States and NATO allies the clarity necessary to plan for a potential post-2014 military presence.”
The U.S. troops who stay beyond 2014, when most foreign combat forces leave, would primarily train and mentor Afghan forces. Some special forces would stay to conduct “counter-terror operations.”
U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, said the deal must be signed by year-end to begin preparations for a post-2014 presence.
There are currently 47,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. U.S. officials have indicated they would keep anywhere from 10-15,000 troops in Afghanistan post-2014.
The Afghan security forces currently number at around 350,000 men. Their greatest deficiency, according to experts, are logistics, which is one of the reasons many are adamant about the U.S. and other coalition countries continuing to advise, train and assist the Afghan forces beyond 2014.