February 25, 2014, 12:04 pm
Obama gives Karzai warning
By Kristina Wong
President Obama warned Afghanistan's president on Tuesday that the U.S. is moving ahead with plans to remove all troops from that country by the end of the year.
While Obama made it clear his wish is to sign a bilateral security agreement (BSA) that would allow a smaller number of U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan, he said the U.S. would no longer wait for a deal.
Obama delivered the message to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in a Tuesday morning phone call — the first time the two have talked on the phone or through video conference since June.
A White House statement detailing the call made clear the tensions between the two governments over the failure to reach an agreement.
Because Karzai has "demonstrated he is unlikely to sign" the agreement, Obama is moving forward without him, the White House statement said.
“Should we have a BSA and a willing and committed partner in the Afghan government, a limited post-2014 mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and going after the remnants of core Al Qaeda could be in the interests of the United States and Afghanistan,” it said.
The U.S. has been pressing Karzai to sign a bilateral security agreement for more than a year, but Karzai has repeatedly refused to do so.
The statement warned that the longer the U.S. goes without an agreement, the more challenging it would be to plan and execute any U.S. mission in Afghanistan post-2014.
“The longer we go without a BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition,” the statement said.
The decision comes ahead of a NATO defense ministerial this week where the post-2014 NATO presence in Afghanistan will be discussed.
"This is a prudent step given that President Karzai has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, which would provide DoD personnel with critical protections and authorities after 2014,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a separate statement.
"As the United States military continues to move people and equipment out of the Afghan theater, our force posture over the next several months will provide various options for political leaders in the United States and NATO,” Hagel said. “And during this time DoD will still continue planning for U.S. participation in a NATO-led mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces, as well as a narrowly focused counterterrorism mission.
Obama and Karzai also discussed preparations for Afghanistan’s upcoming April 5 elections and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation efforts, the White House said.
The president affirmed U.S. support for “fair, credible, timely” elections, as well as support for Afghan forces who will secure the elections, according to a White House statement on Tuesday.
Karzai also updated the president with efforts on peace and reconciliation efforts with the Taliban.