Above: Afghan President Hamid Karzai (R) and US President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama warns his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai that the US will pull all of its troops out of Afghanistan

 

President Obama, apparently resigned to President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign a long-term security agreement with the United States before he leaves office, told him in a phone call on Tuesday that he had instructed the Pentagon to begin planning for a complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.

But in a message aimed less at Mr. Karzai than at whoever will replace him, Mr. Obama said that the United States was still open to leaving a limited military force behind in Afghanistan to conduct training and counterterrorism operations.

Noting that Mr. Karzai had “demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign” the agreement, Mr. Obama told him, in effect, that the United States would deal with the next Afghan leader. He warned Mr. Karzai that the longer it took for Afghanistan to sign the pact, known as a bilateral security agreement, or B.S.A., the smaller the residual force was likely to be.

It was the first time the leaders had spoken since last June, and for all intents and purposes, it marked the end of a relationship that had long since broken down in acrimony.

While Mr. Obama’s message was not a surprise — administration officials had concluded weeks ago that any agreement would probably come only after elections in April — the White House’s blunt description of his call with Mr. Karzai underscored the depth of the president’s frustration and the erosion of trust in the Afghan leader.

But the call also confirmed that the White House has retreated from its earlier insistence that the Afghan government sign the agreement before the elections or face the threat of a total pullout.

“Clearly, the president is putting pressure on Karzai without closing the door on B.S.A. just as he is preparing the ground for the possibility that B.S.A. may not happen,” said Vali Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Indeed, in the call with Mr. Karzai, Mr. Obama made clear that he views a residual force as a way to prevent Afghanistan from becoming once again a haven for terrorist groups.

“Should we have a B.S.A. 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,” the White House said in a statement issued after the call.

The White House had hoped to seal the security pact before a meeting this week of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, where Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to discuss the logistics of the American troop reduction in Afghanistan and the shape of a potential postwar force with other alliance partners.

Military planners have faced deep uncertainty in preparing for a mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces after combat operations officially end this year. The governments of nations that contribute troops must approve any sustained deployments months in advance.

The major candidates for president in Afghanistan have all signaled they would sign the security agreement. But if history is any guide, the April election might necessitate a runoff, which could lead to months of political uncertainty, further delaying the security deal.

A senior administration official said Mr. Obama was sending a message to Mr. Karzai that there would be a cost to further delays, both in the rising chance that the United States might go down to zero troops and in the more limited size and scope of a residual force.

Mr. Obama’s decision to look beyond Mr. Karzai, the official said, was driven by Mr. Karzai himself, who has told the administration that he believes his successor should sign the agreement because the future government will have to live with its consequences.

Appearing before troops at Fort Eustis and Langley Air Force Base near Newport News, Va., Mr. Hagel said the military would now engage seriously in contingency planning for a complete troop withdrawal, known as the “zero option.” While he held open the option of a continued troop presence after 2014, he told reporters that as long as the agreement goes unsigned, “our options narrow and narrow.”

 

 

President Barack Obama warns his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai that the US will pull all of its troops out of Afghanistan unless Kabul signs a controversial bilateral security deal.

President Obama conveyed the message in a recent phone call to Karzai, who has refused to sign the so-called bilateral security pact.
The latest conversation comes as Obama and Karzai have rarely spoken in recent months.

"President Obama told President Karzai that because he has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement), the United States is moving forward with additional contingency planning," the White House said in a statement.

"Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014. Furthermore, the longer we go without a BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 US mission will be smaller in scale and ambition," the statement added.

The Afghan president  Karzai has delayed signing the pact despite repeated US and NATO warnings.

The Afghan president has grown increasingly hostile towards the US government over the security agreement that would allow thousands of American troops to remain beyond the 2014 withdrawal deadline.

Karzai has recently said he saw no good in more than a decade-long American presence in Afghanistan, noting that the US-led NATO mission has failed to bring security.

The president also warned that he will not allow continued foreign presence if it means more bombs and civilian killings.

This is while Afghans say American forces are responsible for the death of many civilians in their country.

The Pentagon is planning for all options, including leaving zero troops in Afghanistan after 2014, according to the White House.

In a phone conversation this morning with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who will leave office in April, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the Defense Department is preparing for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan if the two nations are unable to agree to a Bilateral Security Agreement this year.

“With regard to the Bilateral Security Agreement, in advance of the NATO Defense Ministerial, President Obama told President Karzai that because he has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the BSA, the United States is moving forward with additional contingency planning,” the White House said. “Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014.”

Obama would like to have a BSA in place that allows the U.S. to pursue “a limited post-2014 mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and going after the remnants of core Al Qaeda.” But Karzai has refused to go along with such a deal, complaining that it would allow American forces to continue raiding homes in Afghanistan in search of suspected terrorists. Without a BSA, the U.S. will be unable to leave troops in Afghanistan after this year.

A BSA between the U.S. and Iraq allowed a residual number of American forces to remain in Iraq following the end of combat operations there in the summer of 2009. The last U.S. troops eventually left Iraq in December 2011.

Karzai recently told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that he would sign the agreement “only if the conditions of the Afghan people were accepted and the first precondition is to bring peace and to end war in Afghanistan.”

Obama today warned Karzai that “the longer we go without a BSA, the more challenging it will be to plan and execute any U.S. mission. Furthermore, 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.”

According to reports, the U.S. would prefer for roughly 10,000 of the nearly 35,0000 troops that are currently in Afghanistan to remain there beyond the end of this year. Over 2,100 American troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led war began there back in 2001.

UPDATE:

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel released a statement following Obama’s call with Karzai saying the “Department of Defense will move ahead with additional contingency planning to ensure adequate plans are in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014.”

Hagel will travel to Brussels this week to begin talks with NATO and ISAF defense ministers where the Secretary “will consult closely with NATO Allies and ISAF Partners” on the contingency plan.

The talks will begin Wednesday and conclude Thursday.

The entire statement from Secretary Hagel can be found below.

“At President Obama’s direction, and with my strong support, the Department of Defense will move ahead with additional contingency planning to ensure adequate plans are in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014. 

“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.  I appreciate the efforts of General Dunford and our military leaders to provide flexibility to the President as we work to determine the future of our presence in Afghanistan. 

“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.  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.  

“The United States will consult closely with NATO Allies and ISAF Partners in the months ahead, and I look forward to discussing our planning with NATO and ISAF defense ministers in Brussels this week.”


 

 

..... At President Obama’s direction, and with my strong support, the Department of Defense will move ahead with additional contingency planning to ensure adequate plans are in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014”.

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