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Ear to the Ground

Obama Counters Karzai With Troop Withdrawal Move in Security Pact Standoff

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Posted on Feb 25, 2014

  Better times: Afghan President Hamid Karzai listens to President Barack Obama during the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement signing ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2012. (White House/Pete Souza)


President Obama put the squeeze on Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday, attempting to break down Karzai’s resistance to signing a new security agreement by suggesting in a phone call that all remaining U.S. troops may leave Afghanistan by year-end if the stalemate persists. 

The contested bilateral security agreement would leave room for an ongoing American military presence in Afghanistan, but since Karzai began balking late last year, U.S. officials have tried various means to get him to budge. The problem for the Afghan leader, as the BBC reports, has to do with accountability once the deal is done:

Correspondents say the disagreement over the bilateral security agreement (BSA) is the latest step in the long and deteriorating relationship between Washington and Mr Karzai, who was once seen as a key US ally.

The BSA, which offers legal protection for US troops and defines a post-2014 Nato training and anti-insurgent mission, was agreed by the two countries last year after months of negotiation.

It was endorsed at a national gathering (Loya Jirga) of Afghan elders in Kabul in November.

But Mr Karzai has refused to sign the deal until a peace process is under way with the Taliban, adding that if he were to sign it, he would become responsible if Afghans were killed by US bombs.

The Washington Post also described the terms of the BSA and provided more background about the strained relations between the once-allied sides in a story posted before President Obama dropped his Afghan counterpart a line.

—Posted by Kasia Anderson

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