Afghan President Hamid Karzai triggered more confusion over a security agreement with the U.S. on Thursday by saying the pact would not be signed until after his country's presidential elections next spring — even though the White House wants it made official much sooner.
Karzai's remarks were made in front of the Loya Jirga - a grand council of tribal elders and political leaders – as he urged them to support the new Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) governing relations between the U.S. military and the Afghan government for years to come.
The United States is eager to close the deal as soon as possible, but Karzai indicated the pact may have to wait until after the April elections.
"This pact should be signed when the election has already taken place, properly and with dignity," Karzai, who cannot run in 2014 under the constitution, told the elders, according to Reuters.
Following those remarks, White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest reiterated that President Barack Obama wants the security pact approved and signed by the end of this year.
"We hope that they will move quickly to approve the text of that agreement," Earnest said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
"Failure to get this approved and signed by the end of the year ... would prevent the United States and our allies from being able to plan for a post-2014 presence," said Earnest.
Without an agreement on the BSA, the United States said it could pull out all its troops at the end of 2014.
This conflict is only the latest underlining the uncertainty surrounding the security deal -- following earlier confusion over just how long American troops would remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
U.S. troops have been in the country since 2001, shortly after the September 11th attacks.
The new proposal calls for a sweeping, long-term relationship with the United States, committing Washington to paying to train and equip Afghan security forces, and establishes the groundwork keeping armed American outposts in Afghanistan.
While Secretary of State John Kerry said a final draft deal on troop levels had been reached, Karzai told the Loya Jirga that the United States and NATO will leave 10,000 to 15,000 troops in Afghanistan for at least another decade.
But Kerry said Thursday the United States had no plans for American troops to be in Afghanistan for the long term.
"Let me just push back very clearly, we are not talking about years and years. That is not what is contemplated," he said.
"It is way shorter than any kind of years and years. It is to help the Afghan military train, equip, we will advise, it's a period of time. But, it, I have no contemplation that I've heard from the president or otherwise, that it is about some years and years," Kerry added.
Richard Engel and Andrea Mitchell of NBC News and Reuters contributed to this report.
Karzai, White House have different takes on same deal
First published November 21 2013, 6:12 PM