State Department Again Warns of Zero Option
WASHINGTON – The United States on Monday urged Afghanistan to “promptly” sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), or else it would be forced to begin the process of withdrawal of all its troops from the country. “If we cannot conclude a BSA promptly, we will be forced to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no US or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters at her daily news conference.
“Obviously, planning is not a decision; we all know the president hasn’t made a decision. But there are consequences to every day that passes without a BSA being signed, certainly consequences for the Afghan people most of all in terms of knowing what comes next,” she said. Harf added the US welcomed the Loya Jirga’s overwhelming endorsement of the deal and its continued partnership with the United States. The US was prepared to sign the agreement, viewing it as an opportunity to strengthen and sustain the partnership with Afghanistan, she said.
Pentagon spokesperson Army Col Steve Warren also told reporters the US wanted to sign the pact, but refrained from giving a timeline for it. Harf said the review had been ongoing about what a troop presence would look like after 2014. “I think folks in many parts of the government are looking at a variety of options for what might happen, and we’ve made clear that a BSA needs to be signed promptly as part of that discussion.”
However, she refrained from giving a timeline. “I don’t want to set that kind of timeline on it. I think we’ve said, again, every day that goes by without one there are consequences. And that’s why we think it should be signed as soon as possible. We are ready to sign it,” Harf said. (PAN)