Hamid Karzai and U.S. at Odds Over Security Deal

U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice tells Karzai to sign agreement or American troops start packing

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Omar Sobhani / Reuters

Afghan President Hamid Karzai attends the last day of the Loya Jirga in Kabul, on Nov. 24, 2013.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice traded frank messages on Monday over the bilateral security agreement that would allow American troops to remain in Afghanistan for as long as the next decade.

In her first trip abroad in her new post, Rice delivered the message that Karzai must sign the recently-agreed bilateral security agreement promptly or the U.S. would prepare to pull out its troops by the end of next year. “Without a prompt signature, the U.S. would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan,” Rice told the Afghan president.

But Karzai still balked at finalizing the deal that he negotiated with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this month, despite a Loya Jirga — a grand council of elders — that he called urging him to sign by Dec. 31. On Monday, Karzai added new demands and threatened to defer to whoever succeeds him as president after elections in April.

If Karzai does not sign the bilateral security agreement, nearly all U.S. troops will leave the country by the end of 2014. The deal calls for U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan in a support role “until the end of 2024 and beyond” unless terminated by mutual agreement or with two years’ notice from either side.