The White House is signalling toward the likelihood of a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of this year, The Washington Post is reporting.
With Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign a long-term bilateral security agreement (BSA) that would allow a residual force to remain in the country, the “zero option” remains a realistic possibility.
“Clearly, the president is putting pressure on Karzai without closing the door on B.S.A. just as he is preparing the ground for the possibility that B.S.A. may not happen,” Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told The New York Times.
Obama left the door open, however, for Karzai’s successor — to be chosen in April elections — to sign the pact. “Should we have . . . a willing and committed partner in the Afghan government,” the White House said Obama told Karzai, a “limited” training and counterterrorism force would be in the interests of both countries.
But “the longer we go without a BSA,” or bilateral security agreement, “the more likely it will be that any post-2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition,” the White House said.
The mammoth task of packing up equipment and personnel to depart Afghanistan takes time, so it’s not surprising that Obama has ordered the Pentagon to begin the process. The U.S. had wanted about 15,000 troops to remain in the country for mentorship, training, and counter-terror operations, according to the BBC.
“The preponderance of opinion across the government is that some reasonable post-2014 presence in Afghanistan is necessary to lock in our very hard-fought gains,” Michelle Flournoy, a former top Pentagon official, told the Times.
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