Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday pushed back against U.S. efforts to get him to quickly sign a major bilateral security agreement — and even suggested new terms for the precarious deal, the White House said.
In a meeting in Kabul Monday with U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Karzai laid out new terms for the security accord and “indicated he is not prepared to sign the BSA promptly,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting between the two officials.
The Obama administration has insisted that not getting the deal signed before the end of the year would throw doubt into U.S.-NATO plans for leaving troops in the war-torn country.
Karzai has said that he would rather wait until after the Afghan presidential election in April.
In the meeting, Rice told Karzai it is “not viable” to postpone putting his signature on the deal until after the election.
Rice "stressed that we have concluded negotiations and that deferring the signature of the agreement until after next year's elections is not viable, as it would not provide the United States and NATO allies the clarity necessary to plan for a potential post-2014 military presence," according to the White House.
The White House added that delaying the signing would deprive Afghans "with the certainty they deserve regarding their future, in the critical months preceding elections."
And Karzai added more doubt to the deal by again saying there should be “peace” in the country before the deal is done.
Karzai's spokesman later said the Afghan president wanted to the United States to halt all military operations on civilians' homes — and return Afghan citizens held in the Guantanamo prison camp before the pact is signed.
On Sunday, in his closing statement to the Loya Jirga assembly of elders and dignitaries convened to decide on the security pact, Karzai had said, "Peace is our precondition. America should bring us peace and then we will sign it."
The statement came despite the fact that not one of the 2,500 delegates at the Loya Jirga had objected to signing the deal right away, Reuters reported.
In fact, as the meeting came to a close, assembly chairman Sibghatullah Mojeddedi told Karzai: “If you don’t sign it, we will be disappointed.”
In response, Karzai said, “Fine!” and left the stage.
Reuters contributed to this report.