Hagel warns against delay on Afghan deal

January 31, 2014 - 6:28:43 am
warsaw: The United States and its allies cannot continue to put off decisions about a post-2014 mission in Afghanistan, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said, urging Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a pact allowing US troops to stay beyond this year.

“You can’t just keep deferring and deferring, because at some point the realities of planning and budgeting and all that is required collides,” Hagel said, aboard a military aircraft en route to Poland.

The Obama administration has been pressing Karzai to sign the agreement, which was concluded last year, for months, warning that US and Nato nations could be forced to pull all soldiers out by the end of the year, leaving Afghanistan vulnerable to Taliban resurgence or even civil war.

Karzai, meanwhile, has demanded an end to US military operations on Afghan homes and a step forward in hoped-for peace talks with the Taliban before he will sign the deal.

Hagel said President Barack Obama was personally examining what a possible post-2014 US force in Afghanistan might look like, should the security pact be finalized this year. The US military has advocated keeping a modest-sized force of around 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan to anchor a post-2014 mission that would focus on training and supporting Afghan forces and conducting counter-terrorism activities.

Administration officials say no decisions have yet been made. It is unclear whether the Obama administration would be willing to wait until after Afghanistan elects a new leader in April to finalize the deal, or whether it will call off plans for a post-2014 presence before then.

Hagel said his counterparts from Nato nations were likewise concerned about the delay in finalizing their plans for Afghanistan beyond this year. “They have parliaments, they have budgets, they have their citizens,” he said.