KABUL, Afghanistan –The White House threatened to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan next year, after President Hamid Karzai refused to sign a new bilateral security agreement.
The two countries remain deadlocked over future military involvement after an unsuccessful working dinner between Ambassador Susan Rice and Karzai at his palace in Kabul on Monday night.
In a statement, the White House said Karzai had outlined new conditions for a deal “and indicated he is not prepared to sign the BSA promptly.”
S. Sabawoon / EPA
Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks to the Loya Jirga, Sunday.
“Ambassador Rice reiterated that, without a prompt signature, the U.S. would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan,” the statement said.
The dinner meeting came at the end of Rice’s three-day trip to Afghanistan to visit American troops and civilians and to assess conditions in the country.
The State Department said Tuesday it wants Karzai to adhere to the agreed-upon timeline in signing the BSA -- by the end of the month -- but it stopped short of setting a hard deadline.
"I'm not here to set new deadlines, but obviously, this is something that could not wait until after the election," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, referring to Karzai's desire to wait until he was out of power for the BSA to be signed.
Psaki added that the United States was not aware of Karzai's recent requests when Secretary of State John Kerry met with the Afghan president in October.
On Sunday, a grand council of Afghan tribal leaders - the Loya Jirga – voted to accept the BSA, but Karzai has since indicated he may not sign it until Afghanistan has elected a new president in March.
The White House statement added: “Ambassador Rice conveyed the overwhelming and moving support she found among all the Afghans with whom she met for an enduring U.S.-Afghan partnership and for the prompt signing of the BSA.
“In closing, Rice highlighted the American people's friendship and support for the people of Afghanistan as embodied in the extraordinary sacrifices of our service-men and women and the unprecedented investment Americans have made in Afghanistan.”
In Afghanistan, there are still 47,000 American forces. The U.S. has been in discussions with Afghan officials about keeping a small residual force of about 8,000 troops there after it winds down operations next year.
U.S. officials, including Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, have said the BSA must be signed by year-end to begin preparations for a post-2014 presence.
Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi said the Afghan leader laid out several conditions for his signature to the deal in the meeting, including a U.S. pledge to immediately halt all military raids on, or searches of, Afghan homes.
The agreement includes a provision allowing raids in exceptional circumstances - when an American life is directly under threat - but it would not take effect until 2015.
"It is vitally important that there is no more killing of Afghan civilians by U.S. forces and Afghans want to see this practically," Faizi said, according to Reuters.
Karzai also called on Washington to send remaining Afghan detainees at the U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, back to Afghanistan, saying that the Loya Jirga had endorsed the pact with this condition.
Alastair Jamieson reported from London. Reuters contributed to this report.
First published November 26 2013, 1:29 PM