U.S. President Barack Obama has told the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year in case the long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) remains unsigned.
The White House says Mr. Obama conveyed the message to his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, in a phone call Tuesday.
White House Spokesman Jay Carney says the president told Mr. Karzai that Washington will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA with Afghanistan later this year, but that the longer it is delayed, the more likely it becomes that any post-2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition.
"The fact that President Karzai has indicated that it is unlikely he will sign the BSA means that if he doesn't sign, it is possible that a successor Afghan government might sign it. But that pushes us later into the year and the longer we go without a signed BSA, by necessity the more narrow in the size and ambition the mission for a post 2014 force would be."
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Defense Department will plan for both an orderly withdraw, as well as, continue planning for U.S. participation in a NATO-led mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces.
The Bilateral Security Agreement would keep about 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in a support role for 10 years. Mr. Karzai has objected to U.S. military tactics in his country, especially raids on Afghan homes, and has said he wants assurances of a dialogue with Taliban militants before it is signed.
The Obama administration has threatened to terminate America's military role entirely if the accord is not signed.