White House seeks soft terms for security pact
WASHINGTON (PAN): Afghan officials said on Thursday the White House so-called consideration of a complete troop pullout from Afghanistan was aimed at seeking flexibility in the tough conditions set by the Kabul government for a security pact with Washington."
Officials accompanying President Hamid Karzai on his three-day visit to Washington for a series of meetings on key issues with Americans said the statement about zero US troop levels in Afghanistan after 2014 was a pressure tactic.
Karzai, who Wednesday discussed with a bipartisan group of US senators ongoing talks on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) and the issue of security transition in Afghanistan, is scheduled to meet President Obama on Friday.
The two leaders are to enter curial talks over the security accord that would allow a small number of US soldiers to stay in Afghanistan beyond the planned 2014 exit of foreign troops.
Karzai also met Central Intelligence Agency Acting Director Michael Morell and US National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, who triggered an angry reaction from Afghan lawmakers after he told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that the number of troops could be zero after the 2014 exit deadline.
Karzai’s chief spokesman Aimal Faizi told Pajhwok Afghan News the overall security situation in Afghanistan figured prominently at the talks between Karzai, Morell and Rhodes. He, however, would not go into details of the meeting.
Separately, High Peace Council Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani and Secretary Masoom Satnikzai conferred with American authorities on the ongoing reconciliation campaign. Both sides agreed on the need for speeding up the peace negotiation.
"The Americans want to mount pressure on President Karzai in a bid to bring changes to the tough conditions from the Afghan side for the security agreement," an official travelling with Karzai told Pajhwok, wishing anonymity. He claimed both sides had entered "a heated debate" over the security agreement, with Americans trying to push ahead with their own agenda.
Abdul Karim Khurram, Karzai's chief of staff, said the meetings were aimed at shaping Afghanistan's future. A member of the delegation, Khurram said Afghanistan wanted the US to accept all its conditions for the security pact and the country's economic and infrastructural development.
"The US is expected to continue her generous contribution toward training and equipping Afghan security forces until they are able to take the security responsibility on their own for the rest of the country," he remarked.
On Rhodes's statement, the official said he did not think the US would go for a complete troop drawdown.
Faizi said negotiations on the US military presence after 2014 were ongoing. He linked paving the way for concluding the accord to the acceptance of Afghan conditions.
When asked what Afghanistan would do if the US refused to accept its conditions for the agreement, Karzai's spokesman said they had an alternative, but stopped short of going into details.
However, another official in the delegation believed Washington would not promise assistance to any Afghan sector except the aid it had promised the Chicago Summit. He added the US remained concerned about the consistently low capacity of Afghan departments and endemic administrative corruption.
Faizi said the Afghan government had already begun talks with the US over military assistance, hoping for a positive outcome during the ongoing presidential trip.
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