Dec. 5 (UPI)-- NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen issued a cautionary warning to Afghan President Hamid Karzai that if Karzai delays signing a long-term security agreement with the United States, Afghanistan will see a total troop withdrawal by the end of 2014 and a possible impact on foreign aid as well.
Although there is no deadline for the agreement, Rasmussen emphasized "there are certain realities on the ground, including planning, including budgetary, and parliamentary procedures in potential [troop] contributions, and those facts on the ground make it necessary to sign that legal framework very soon." Speaking at a two-day defense ministers' meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Rasmussen concluded that "At the end of the day, it's their decision" to accept the agreement or not.
Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated the pressing need for Karzai's timely signature. "There are over 50 nations who are engaged here through NATO in trying to help Afghanistan... Those nations have budget cycles; those nations have planning requirements. Those nations have equipment requirements; they have deployment requirements. All of those things are best managed through planning.”
A U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement reached last month fell apart when Karzai issued new demands that included U.S. assistance in peace talks with the Taliban, the release of all 17 Afghan citizens detained at Guantanamo Bay, and the end of "home entries" by U.S. troops conducting counter-insurgent operations in Afghanistan.
[Stars and Stripes] [Washington Post] [UPI]