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Karzai refuses to extend US troop mandate past 2014

President Hamid Karzai on Sunday ignored advice from Afghan elders and refused to sign a deal to allow US forces to remain past a planned 2014 deadline, saying that the US must “bring peace” to the country before he agrees to an extension.


Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday refused to sign an agreement with Washington to allow US forces to remain in the country beyond a planned 2014 withdrawal, saying that the United States must first “bring peace” to Afghanistan before he signs the deal and that he wants further negotiations.

“Peace is our condition. If they bring peace we will sign it,” Karzai said, in closing remarks to a council of Afghan elders.

Karzai had ignored the advice of an assembly of Afghan elders – the 2,500-member Loya Jirga – to renew the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) before the end of 2013.

Loya Jirga delegates had spent three days debating the deal, which would enable thousands of American soldiers to stay beyond a 2014 deadline, primarily to train the Afghan government security forces who are struggling in their attempts to conquer the Taliban insurgency.

The Loya Jirga, a consultative body, has great influence in Afghan society but no legal power in government. It can only make recommendations to the president, who convened the most recent meeting to ask its advice on whether he should extend the security deal.

His refusal to do so angered the chairman of the Loya Jirga and Karzai’s one-time mentor, former president Sibghatullah Mojaddedi.

“You should sign it, you should sign it for this issue to be over,” Mojaddedi yelled at Karzai.

“This is our request. That this agreement should be signed very soon and if the president does not sign it, I will promise you that as I am a servant of this nation, who has served these people for 40 to 50 years, I will resign and I will leave this country,” the 89-year-old Mojaddedi said.

US still hopeful

US President Barack Obama’s administration has said it wants a deal signed by the end of the year and warned that planning for a post-2014 military presence will be undermined if Karzai does not sign the agreement.

The Obama administration has said it will pull all its forces out of Afghanistan without a security deal, just as it did when Iraq failed to sign a similar agreement, and most of America’s foreign allies have also said they would not keep troops in Afghanistan without a deal.

“We are studying President Karzai’s speech. We continue to believe that concluding the BSA as quickly as possible is to the benefit of both nations.” US Embassy spokesman Robert Hilton said Sunday.

Karzai is set to leave office after April 5 elections that will elect his successor.

With his time in office limited, Karzai showed signs that he was considering his legacy. He may want to avoid being seen as the man responsible for allowing foreign troops to remain in his country beyond December 2014, when a NATO mandate ends and international military forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan. And some Afghans see the US security agreement as a sign that Karzai is being manipulated by foreign interests.

“You have asked me that I should sign it within a month,” Karzai told the Loya Jirga assembly. “Do you think that peace will come within a month? If I sign it and peace does not come, who will be blamed for it by history? If I sign it today and tomorrow we don’t have peace, who would be blamed by history? So that is why I am asking for guarantees.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP)


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