Notwithstanding President Hamid Karzai's reluctance to sign the bilateral security agreement, the United States has said that though it is open to signing of the pact later in the year, the longer it takes the more challenging it will be to execute any mission post 2014 in Afghanistan.
United States President Barack Obama called Karzai on Tuesday in order to discuss preparations for Afghanistan's upcoming elections, the Afghan-led peace and reconciliation efforts and, specifically, the bilateral security agreement (BSA), White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
"It has been indicated that it is unlikely by President Karzai he will sign it, the (US) President (Barack Obama) made clear in his call today that we are preparing for the possibility of no troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of the year and we are open to the signing of a bilateral security agreement later in the year, but the longer it takes to get there, by necessity, because of the planning, the smaller the mission will be beyond 2014, both in size and ambition," Carney told reporters.
Obama told Karzai that because he (Karzai) has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the BSA, the US is moving forward with additional contingency planning.
"We have been calling on the Afghan government to complete that process, to sign that agreement, which was negotiated in good faith, and do so promptly.
"It is not subject to renegotiation, and I'm not sure I've heard members of Congress suggest that it should be. What I think has been amply demonstrated is that we've been pressing very hard for the Karzai government to complete the process by signing the BSA," he added.
Carney said it has always been envisioned by the US and its NATO allies that they would draw down to zero by the end of this year.
The prospect of a force beyond 2014 has always been a policy goal dependent upon a BSA being signed, he said.
"When it comes to the potential for post-2014 troop presence, two things are happening. One, as we made clear would be the case, the President has tasked the Pentagon with preparing for the contingency that there will be no troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
"But we are also remaining open to the possibility of a post-2014 troop presence, should a bilateral security agreement be signed or the bilateral security agreement be signed later in the year," Carney said.
"But the longer we go without a BSA, the more challenging it will be to plan and to execute any US mission. Furthermore, the longer we go without a signed BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 US mission will be smaller in scale and ambition," he said.
Image: US president Barack Obama with his Afghanistan counterpart Hamid Karzai