Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations says he is "certain'' his government will soon sign an agreement with the United States that would allow some U.S. troops to remain behind after the withdrawal of American soldiers at the end of the year.
Zahir Tanin's statement to the U.N. Security Council Monday is sharply at odds with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's final address to parliament on Saturday ahead of April 5 presidential elections.
Karzai reiterated he will not sign the agreement. He insists U.S. soldiers could leave on schedule because the Afghan military, which already protects 93 percent of the country, is ready to take over entirely.
Tanin said the Afghan people demonstrated at a Loya Jirga or grand council in November that they "believe in the importance of continuing strategic relations with the United States, NATO and the wider international community.''
"To this end, we are certain the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States will be signed soon," said Tanin.
U.S. officials have said if Karzai does not agree soon to the long-delayed deal, all U.S. troops will be pulled out of the country in December.
Karzai had been expected to sign a bilateral security agreement late last year that would allow about 10,000 U.S. troops to be deployed in the country after NATO withdraws by December. However, the Afghan president refused to sign the deal, and has said his successor might now complete negotiations.
Some of the nine candidates seeking the presidency have said they would sign the security agreement.