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Karzai Vows Delay of U.S.-Afghan Security Pact

After months spent crafting a deal to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan past 2014, Hamid Karzai is refusing to say whether he\'d sign it.
Posted at 8:54 AM, Nov 24, 2013

It's a move that has U.S. officials scratching their heads. After months of crafting a deal to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan a little longer, Afghanistan's president is refusing to say whether he'd sign it. 

After four days of deliberations, the country’s council of tribal elders — known as the Loya Jirga —  endorsed the bilateral agreement. They want Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign the deal before the end of the month. (Via NATO

The deal would allow troops to stay in Afghanistan once combat operations end in 2014. Specifically about 15,000 U.S. and NATO troops would remain after 2014, mostly to train security forces. (Via PBS)

 

But Karzai says he wants more time. In the past he's laid out preconditions for the deal. Those include first achieving peace with the Taliban and holding presidential elections in April.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, of course, said the U.S. wants the deal in ink sooner, rather than later: "It is neither practical nor possible for us to further delay because of the uncertainty it would create." (Via WSYM)  

 U.S. officials point to what happened in Iraq in 2011. When a similar deal couldn’t be reached, all U.S. forces had to withdraw from the country that year. As was the case in Iraq, most U.S. allies say they won’t stay to help in Afghanistan unless Karzai signs on the dotted line. (Via CBS

Some observers have speculated his insistence that the deal be signed after he leaves office is a way of keeping his legacy in tact. 

A writer at The New Yorker says this is all very deliberate:

"Karzai’s “madman” approach to negotiations puts pressure on his stronger, but more rational, bargaining partners to placate him rather than risk scotching a deal that benefits them as well."

But as political analyst Ahmad Idrees Rahmani told The Wall Street Journal this is wishful thinking on Karzai's part: 

“To be honest, the fact that the Jirga overwhelmingly approved this destroys the bargaining position of the president against the U.S. … He's been stripped of a bargaining chip."

As for the Taliban, it has vowed to punish those who approve the deal.