Further delays for US deal with Afghanistan

Rift between US and Afghanistan seems to be widening as Karzai pushes for immediate end to raids on Afghan homes.

    A meeting between President Hamid Karzai and a senior US official has revealed new differences over the controversial security agreement to allow US troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.

    Karzai told US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who met with the Afghan leader on Monday that the US must put an immediate end to military raids on Afghan homes and demonstrate its commitment to peace talks before the Afghan leader would sign a bilateral security pact, Karzai's spokesman said.

    The White House said that Karzai had outlined new conditions in the meeting on Monday with Rice and "indicated he is not prepared to sign the (bilateral security agreement) promptly," a White House statement said.

    It also deepens questions about whether any US and NATO troops will remain after the end of next year in Afghanistan, which faces a still-potent insurgency and is still training up its own military.

    US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, said the deal must be signed by year-end to begin preparations for a post-2014 presence.

    Several pre-conditions

    Rice, who made a three-day visit to Afghanistan to visit US troops, told Karzai that the delay "would not provide the United States and NATO allies the clarity necessary to plan for a potential post-2014 military presence," the White House said.

    "Without a prompt signature, the US would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no US or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan," the statement said.

    There are currently 47,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

    Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi said the Afghan leader laid out several pre-conditions for his signature to the deal in the meeting, including a US pledge to halt all military raids on, or searches of, Afghan homes immediately.

    The Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) includes a provision allowing raids in exceptional circumstances -- when an American life is directly under threat -- but it would not take effect until 2015.

    Karzai also called on Washington to send remaining Afghan detainees at the US military detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, back to Afghanistan, saying that the Loya Jirga, the assembly of elders and leaders that convened last week to debate the deal, had endorsed the pact with this condition.

    Faizi said the Afghan president had asked his American visitors to return to the US president with his message.

    "The ball is in your court now, and get back to us," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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