Afghan-US security deal still hangs in the balance

Afghan president Hamid Karzai speaks during loya jirga in Kabul on November 21, 2013.

Story highlights

  • President Hamid Karzai says he won't sign a security deal until after elections
  • That's "not viable," U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice says
  • The delay could mean U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan earlier than expected
  • Afghan elders have demands that Karzai wants Washington to meet

Despite rousing approval by the vast majority of Afghan elders, Afghanistan's security deal with the United States still hangs in the balance.

President Hamid Karzai says he won't sign it until some conditions are met. U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice says what the Afghan leader is asking for are new demands added to a deal that has already been worked out.

Karzai wants a promise from the United States that there will be no more raids on Afghan homes, and that Afghan prisoners will be released from the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

He says the demands come not from him but from the 2,500 elders, who convened for four days last week at a loya jirga, a consultative assembly, to consider the agreement, Karzai said.

What's missing? Karzai's signature

Rice, who met Karzai over dinner Monday night to talk about the bilateral security agreement, dug in her heels.

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She told him to sign the bilateral security agreement soon, or the United States will be forced to plan for a complete pull-out. That would include NATO's troops, depriving Afghanistan off all security coverage from Western forces, she said in a statement.

During the loya jirga, Karzai told the crowd that the deal would not be signed until after the next presidential election in April 2014.

The elders and Rice both said they would like to see it be signed more promptly.

Along with their demands toward the United States, the loya jirga attendees requested that Karzai pass the agreement before the end of this year.

In his speech at the jirga, Karzai had already threatened not to sign, if the sensitive issue of house raids was not addressed.

"If U.S. military forces conduct military operations on Afghan homes even one more time, then there will be no BSA and we won't sign it," Karzai said Sunday. "They should give assurance about this to us before I sign it."

The raids have been one of the main sore spots between Afghans and Western military presence led by the United States.

Other NATO countries, including Germany, have said they will be unable to remain in Afghanistan if the United States and Afghanistan do not reach a deal. A total withdrawal would also put at risk billions of dollars in international aid.

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