Karzai Unlikely to Meet US Security Deal Deadline

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The top US negotiator in talks to secure a long-term security deal with Afghanistan has warned that President Hamid Karzai is unlikely to sign the agreement on time, The Washington Post reported.

Karzai Unlikely to Meet US Security Deal Deadline

The assessment was made in recent days by US Ambassador James Cunningham in a classified cable, after President Barack Obama's administration repeatedly extended the deadline for the agreement, originally due to be signed early last fall.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said this week that the deal must be signed within "weeks and not months."

"The clock is ticking," he said.

But Cunningham said he did not expect Karzai to agree to sign the document before presidential elections set to be held in April.

US-Afghan ties hit a new low in recent months after Karzai made a surprise decision not to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement promptly, despite having vowed to do so, AFP reported.

The BSA would see several thousand US troops remain in Afghanistan to provide training and assistance after the NATO combat mission ends in December.

Signing the BSA is a precondition for the delivery of billions of dollars in Western aid for Afghanistan.

"We continue to urge President Karzai to sign the BSA promptly," a senior State Department official told the Post when asked about Cunningham's cable.

President Barack Obama's deputies have warned that unless Karzai relents on the security deal soon, there will be no option but to prepare for a full US troop exit -- the so-called "zero option".

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