Kabul (AFP) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul on Friday to try to advance troubled negotiations with Afghanistan on some U.S. troops staying in the country after 2014.
Karzai said this week that he was prepared to walk away from the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) talks if Afghanistan was not happy with its conditions.
The United States has repeatedly pressed for the pact to be signed by the end of this month, so that the U.S.-led NATO military coalition can schedule its withdrawal of 87,000 combat troops by December 2014.
“President Obama and President Karzai reaffirmed both back in January that the goal here was to complete the BSA in October,” a state department official travelling with Kerry told reporters.
“We continue to believe that is both preferable and doable. It is only October 11 at this point.
“Uncertainty about an incomplete BSA could erode the resolve among NATO allies, makes (it) more difficult to plan for the U.S., makes (it) more difficult to plan for our NATO allies.”
Karzai has said he refuses to be rushed into signing the deal, and would first seek approval from a traditional grand assembly of tribal leaders to be convened in about month’s time.
“If it doesn’t suit us and if it doesn’t suit them, then naturally we will go separate ways,” Karzai said in a BBC interview broadcast on Monday.
The agreement would see a few thousand U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan to train local forces and target Al-Qaeda remnants.
According to the Afghan government, talks ground to a halt over U.S. demands for the right to conduct unilateral military operations, and on how the U.S. would pledge to protect Afghanistan.
The collapse of a similar agreement with Iraq in 2011 led to the U.S. pulling its troops out of the country, which is currently suffering its worst sectarian violence since 2008.