- The Afghan president says the pact should not be signed until after April elections
- His comments are at odds with what U.S. officials want
- "My trust with America is not good. I don't trust them, and they don't trust me," Karzai says
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that a recently reached security agreement with the United States should not be signed until after elections in April.
His comments in Kabul to thousands of tribal elders at a meeting -- known as a loya jirga, or grand assembly -- are at odds with what U.S. officials want.
The loya jirga must decide whether to accept or reject the deal, which lays out a limited support role for American forces beyond next year.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told reporters in Washington that authorities are "seeking clarity on the meaning and intention," of Karzai's remarks.
"Broadly speaking, when we signed the strategic partnership agreement last year, both countries committed to completing the BSA (bilateral security agreement) within one year. We, of course, know the math. That window is this month, and we believe that signing the BSA sooner rather than later is essential to give Afghans certainty about their future before the upcoming elections, and enable the United States and other partners to plan for U.S. presence after 2014," she said.
"We need a timely conclusion of this in order to plan for a -- any potential post-2014 presence -- which means signing it by the end of the year," Psaki said.
If approved, the agreement would go into effect January 1, 2015, and last "until the end of 2024 and beyond, unless terminated" by mutual agreement and with two years notice by either party, according to a copy of the deal posted online by the Afghan government that a U.S. official confirms is authentic.
The subject of military raids and strikes has long been a sore point between the two countries, especially given a number of incidents in which noncombatant men, women and children were killed.
The proposed deal contains references to respecting "Afghanistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity," and adds U.S. forces "shall not target Afghan civilians, including in their homes." It does not address past transgressions.
"If you accept and the parliament passes it, the bilateral security agreement would be signed when our election is done -- without any problem and with dignity," Karzai said Thursday in Kabul.
Elections are scheduled for April.
The Afghan president also addressed the subject of trust between his country and the United States.
"My trust with America is not good. I don't trust them, and they don't trust me. The last 10 years have shown that I have fought with them, and they have made propaganda against me," he said.
U.S. troops first deployed to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, which were coordinated by al Qaeda leaders then based in the south Asian nation.
Since taking office, President Barack Obama has promised -- and, in some cases, acted -- to reduce troop levels there, in addition to stating the goal of ending the U.S. combat mission by the end of 2014.
The approval of a security agreement would pave the way for Americans troops to remain on the ground in Afghanistan beyond that.