A security deal to allow some US troops to stay in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda was at risk of collapse yesterday after Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was prepared to walk away from negotiations.
The US has pushed for the bilateral security pact (BSA) to be signed by the end of this month so that the US-led NATO military coalition can schedule its withdrawal of 87,000 troops by the end of next year.
However, Karzai said he refused to be rushed into signing the deal, and would first seek approval from a traditional grand assembly to be convened in a month’s time.
“The agreement has to suit Afghanistan’s interests and purposes. If it doesn’t suit us and if it doesn’t suit them, then naturally we will go separate ways,” Karzai said in a BBC interview in Kabul.
According to the Afghan government, talks ground to a halt over US demands for the right to conduct unilateral military operations after next year, and on how the US would pledge to protect Afghanistan.
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last week described the deal as “critically important” and said he hoped it would be signed by the end of the month.
The collapse of a similar agreement with Iraq in 2011 led to the US pulling all its troops out of the country, which is currently suffering its worst sectarian violence since 2008.
However, Kabul has dismissed the possibility that the US may enact the “zero option” of a complete pull-out.
US and Afghan negotiators held their latest round of talks on Monday, focusing their attention on two sticking points.
Afghanistan wants US guarantees against future foreign intervention, a veiled reference to neighboring Pakistan.
Kabul accuses its neighbor of harboring the Taliban and other extremists who enter Afghanistan and then cross back into Pakistan, where they cannot be attacked by Afghan or US-led international forces.
The second sticking point is the role and conduct of the counterterrorism force the US wants to leave behind.
“The United States and its allies, NATO, continue to demand even after signing the BSA they will have the freedom to attack our people, our villages,” Karzai said on Monday.
Karzai’s outburst came in response to a question about a NATO air strike on Friday last week in Nangarhar Province.
The US-led coalition said its forces struck insurgents trying to attack the base and that no civilians were harmed, but Kabul claims five civilians were killed.
After Karzai’s comments, Washington said it remained committed to talks and urged Kabul to stay focused on concluding the deal.
US President Barack Obama this week said he would consider a limited US mission after this year only if the Afghan government “was willing to work with us in a cooperative way that would protect our troops.”
The US wants to keep as many as 10,000 troops in Afghanistan to go after the remnants of al-Qaeda, but if no agreement is signed, all US troops would have to leave by Dec. 31 next year and it is unlikely that NATO or any of its allies will keep troops there either.
The rivalry between Asia’s two biggest countries has extended into outer space. After India’s landing of its Chandrayaan-3 rover on the moon last month — becoming the first country to put a spacecraft near the lunar south pole and breaking China’s record for the southernmost lunar landing — a top Chinese scientist has said claims about the accomplishment are overstated. Ouyang Ziyuan (歐陽自遠), lauded as the father of China’s lunar exploration program, told the Chinese-language Science Times newspaper that the Chandrayaan-3 landing site, at 69 degrees south latitude, was nowhere close to the pole, defined as between 88.5 and 90 degrees. On Earth,
SCIENTIFIC TREASURE: Preserved building blocks from the dawn of our solar system, the samples would help scientists better understand how the Earth and life formed NASA’s first asteroid samples fetched from deep space on Sunday parachuted into the Utah desert to cap a seven-year journey. In a flyby of Earth, the Osiris-Rex spacecraft released the sample capsule from 100,000km out. The small capsule landed four hours later on a remote expanse of military land, as the ship set off after another asteroid. “We have touchdown,” mission recovery operations announced, immediately repeating the news since the landing occurred three minutes early. Officials later said the orange striped parachute opened four times higher than anticipated — at about 6,100m — basing it on the deceleration rate. To everyone’s relief, the
Venezuela’s Tocoron prison was like a town all unto itself, boasting restaurants, a pool, a zoo, a playground for inmates’ kids and so much more as a powerful gang ruled the roost, using the facility as a criminal operations center. “Steak House. Enjoy,” read a sign on the wall of one of the restaurants in the prison, which thousands of soldiers and police stormed this week. Tocoron is empty of the 1,600 prisoners who lived here and have been moved elsewhere. Gone is the gang that controlled it — Tren de Aragua, which has tentacles in various Latin American countries. “Life was nicer
A little-known former shipping executive and ex-Goldman Sachs trader on Sunday pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Greek political history after winning the leadership of SYRIZA, the main opposition party. Stefanos Kasselakis, 35, is a self-styled self-made entrepreneur who says he wants to promote transparency, boost labor and social rights, speed up justice, and eliminate perks for bankers and politicians. Picking up more than 56 percent of the vote based on preliminary results, he defeated four other candidates — three of them prominent SYRIZA former ministers — after a whirlwind campaign mostly waged on social media. “We want a Greece where