Afghan defence minister can sign security pact: Kerry
BRUSSELS (PAN): US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday said Afghan defense minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi or government could sign the security agreement with the US instead of a reluctant President Hamid Karzai.
Kerry told a press conference in the Belgium capital that the agreement was a serious business, not fooling around, saying it was important for the accord to move forward.
"I think it is important for the agreement to try to move forward. It doesn't have to be pres(ident)," he said, not finishing the word. "You know, his minister of defense (Bismullah Khan Mohammadi) can sign it, the government can sign it, somebody can accept responsibility for this.”
"But I think it is important, for planning purposes, for people who have been extraordinarily patient, who are trying to allocate major amounts of money to sustaining this effort in Afghanistan, to have knowledge of where they are going."
Kerry said he had personally negotiated the agreement with Karzai and did not believe in unilateral renegotiation.
“We negotiated this agreement. I personally negotiated it with him (President Karzai) and we came to a conclusion, and the President agreed and stood up and said this is what we’re going to do, we’re going to send it to the Loya Jirga, and if they approve, then we’ll send it to parliament and go forward.”
He said he now did not believe in renegotiating unilaterally. “I don’t think President Obama appreciates, the amount of sacrifice that has been made by our troops, by the American people to contribute to the future of Afghanistan, that this somehow is being left in doubt at this critical moment.”
Other NATO leaders also urged Karzai to swiftly sign the security pact, saying failure to do so could jeopardize Afghan security and up to $8 billion a year in foreign aid.
US and NATO officials have warned that if Karzai does not sign the security deal with the United States promptly, both Washington and the alliance would have to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and abandon plans to leave behind a training force of around 8,000-12,000 soldiers.
"My concern is that if we are not able to deploy a training mission to Afghanistan, it may have a negative impact on the security situation in Afghanistan and furthermore it may also have a negative impact on the provision of financial aid to Afghanistan," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters.
A senior diplomat at NATO said US National Security Adviser Susan Rice had made clear on a recent visit to Kabul that Washington would begin planning a total pullout by the end of 2014 unless Karzai signed by the end of this year.
Kerry said, however, that Obama had urged Karzai to sign the pact by "a period of time" but had set no ultimatum.
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