President Barack Obama has threatened to pull all US troops out of war-ravaged Afghanistan by the year end if a crucial bilateral security agreement is not signed.
Obama conveyed the terse message to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has refused to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US that would allow presence of US troops in Afghanistan post-2014.
“With regard to the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), in advance of the NATO Defence Ministerial, President Obama told President Karzai that because he has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the BSA, the US is moving forward with additional contingency planning,” the White House said in a statement after Obama spoke with Karzai over phone on Tuesday.
During the call, Obama said he has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has “adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the US not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014”.
However, the US has held out the possibility of leaving behind in Afghanistan as many as 8,000 troops after the formal drawdown at year’s end. These troops would conduct counter-terrorism operations against al Qaeda targets and train Afghan forces.
“At the same time, should we have a BSA and a willing and committed partner in the Afghan government, a limited post-2014 mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and going after the remnants of core Al-Qaeda could be in the interests of the US and Afghanistan,” the statement said.
“Therefore, we will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA with Afghanistan later this year. However, the longer we go without a BSA, the more challenging it will be to plan and execute any US mission. Furthermore, the longer we go without a BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 US mission will be smaller in scale and ambition.”
The US has had troops in Afghanistan since 2001 following the 9/11 terror attacks.
Besides, Obama welcomed the beginning of Afghanistan’s Presidential campaign season and affirmed the US’ support for a fair, credible, timely and Afghan-led process.