KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- An Afghan general warned of "challenges and problems" for his country's military if a security agreement isn't signed soon with the United States.
Lt. Gen. Murad Ali Murad, who heads Afghanistan's ground forces, told the BBC his country could be exposed if the United States withdraws all of its forces by the end of 2014.
Murad was referring to the bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States, which Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign, although the pact, after yearlong negotiations, was approved by Afghanistan's Loya Jirga council of elders in November.
"Without the foreign forces we will have challenges and problems when it comes to the equipping and training of the Afghan national army," Murad told the BBC. "We don't share the view that Afghanistan will slip back into civil war but we need more support and resources so we can deal with the threat posed by the insurgents, especially during elections. We need air support and transport."
The United States has insisted the agreement must be signed by the end of this year so it can plan and prepare to leave some troops in Afghanistan post-2014 after the current NATO and U.S.-led forces complete their withdrawal. Karzai is seeking more guarantees, including additional assurances to protect civilians, before approving the agreement and also has said it should be signed only by the new president after the April elections.
With an agreement, as many as 15,000 foreign soldiers would remain in Afghanistan to train the Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations.
The BBC said other senior Afghan commanders also understand the military consequences arising from a complete U.S. withdrawal if the pact is not signed. Without a signed agreement, Afghanistan may lose billions of dollars of aid needed to help build its own security forces.
NATO Secretary-General Andres Fogh Rasmussen has said a NATO Status of Forces Agreement cannot be signed until the agreement with the United States is approved.