Afghan President Hamid Karzai is unlikely to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Tuesday during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Clapper is the highest ranking U.S. official to publicly air doubts over whether an agreement can be reached. Negotiations over how many troops might remain in Afghanistan and how much aid money will be available after the December drawdown have been tense, and Karzai has refused to sign a security agreement until after the next Afghan presidential election in April.
What happens in Afghanistan after U.S. ends its nearly 13-year-old war in December has been a source of serious concern for Afghans and Americans alike since President Obama announced plans to end the armed conflict there. During a meeting in November, Karzai told National Security Adviser Susan Rice that he would not sign the agreement unless the United States agreed to new demands to help facilitate peace talks with the Taliban and agrees to release the 17 Afghan men being held at Guantanamo Bay.
U.S. officials have stated that without a security agreement between the two nations, all American forces will pull out of Afghanistan, leaving the newly created and trained Afghan security forces without advisers and likely without funding. According to a report in the Washington Post, Afghan soldiers are afraid that they will not be able to maintain order without U.S. assistance.
The United States also condemned a move to release 65 men who had been detained at the Afghan National Detention Facility at Parwan. The U.S. has said that these men are threats to American interests and had an agreement with Afghanistan to keep them in detention. A statement released by U.S. Forces Afghanistan called it “a major step backward for the rule of law in Afghanistan.”