Afghan activists wave flags and chant slogans condemning the killing of 21 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers, during a demonstration in Kabul yesterday.
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama told Hamid Karzai yesterday that he is now planning a full US troop withdrawal because of the Afghan leader’s continued refusal to sign a security pact.
But in a telephone call with the Afghan president, Obama also held out the possibility of agreeing a post-2014 training and anti-terror mission with the next government in Kabul.
The US threat was the latest twist in a long political struggle with Karzai, who appears intent on infuriating Washington until the day he leaves office, sometime after elections in April.
The Obama administration is open to leaving behind a residual US force when its combat teams leave Afghanistan after America’s longest war at the end of this year.
But it will not do so without legal protections enshrined in the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) which Karzai will not endorse.
“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,” a White House statement 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.”
The White House had previously warned that Karzai’s intransigence on a deal painstakingly negotiated last year meant it had no choice but to mull the “zero option.”
The statement said Obama was reserving the possibility of concluding a Bilateral Security Agreement with Afghanistan later this year should the new government be willing.
It was the most concrete sign yet that Washington could wait out the Afghan electoral process before making a final decision on a future role in Afghanistan.
Though Karzai has refused to sign the pact, some candidates to replace him have indicated they would sign it. The deal has also been endorsed by a council of tribal elders.
White House spokesman Jay Carney however said Washington was not certain a future government would sign up.
“I don’t think we would, given the experience we’ve had, predict with any great certainty what might happen,” he said.
KABUL: About 200 people protested in Kabul yesterday against the killing of 21 soldiers by Taliban militants as Afghanistan faces up to the prospect of fighting the insurgents alone after this year.
The massacre in the eastern province of Kunar triggered widespread patriotic tributes to Afghanistan’s fledging security forces as they take over responsibility for crushing the Taliban’s bloody 13-year insurgency.
“The situation makes me angry,” Zohra Mousawi, a 20-year-old student at the protest said.
“Nobody cares about them, every day we have people who die and our president doesn’t care,” she said. “I blame him.”
The protesters chanted “Taliban are not our brother but our enemies” and “Our President, are you with us or with the enemy?”
After the attack on Sunday, Karzai blamed Islamabad for failing to crack down on Taliban safe havens in Pakistan, where militant leaders seek sanctuary from Afghan and US military operations.
In a separate rally yesterday, dozens of people protested outside the Pakistani embassy, accusing Pakistan of supporting the Taliban.