Deadlock Persists, US Again Warns of Zero Option
KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai and America’s National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice have failed to narrow down Kabul-Washington differences over the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) on a future US military presence in Afghanistan.
On a trip to visit US troops in Afghanistan, Rice had a meeting with Karzai at his office in Kabul on Monday night, when the president reaffirmed his administration’s conditions — a clear US commitment to peace in the country, an end to raids on civilian homes, transparent presidential elections and release of Afghan detainees from Guantanamo Bay.
During the two-hour meeting, Karzai once again made clear that he would ink the deal only after the US helped his administration in entering reconciliation parleys with the Taliban and freed all 17 Afghan nationals from its naval detention facility in Cuba, officials from both sides said.
Obama’s advisor held out no concrete assurance to Karzai regarding of the US intensifying its role in the Afghan-led peace drive, according to a statement from the Presidential Palace in Kabul. Karzai asked the US delegation to convey Afghan people’s demands to Obama.
In Washington, the National Security Council said Rice had told the Afghan president if he did not sign the security pact by the end of 2013, the US would be left with no option but to exercise the zero option — withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan.
A statement from the council said Rice “stressed that we have concluded negotiations and that deferring the signature until after next year’s elections is not viable.” She reiterated that if the BSA was not inked promptly, Washington would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no US or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Karzai’s statement was equally strongly-worded, telling Rice that he would not budge from his principled position on signing the agreement. He emphasised on the US military to put an immediate end to raids on Afghan homes and demonstrate its commitment to peace talks. (PAN)