World News

US, Afghans at Odds Over Timing of Security Pact Signing

The Obama administration is pressing the Afghan government to sign a new security pact or face the prospect of no U.S. troops in the country beyond 2014.

In an interview with VOA's Afghan Service Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said "the bottom line is we need to conclude this agreement with a signature between our two governments as quickly as possible and certainly by the end of the year."

Psaki said if that does not happen, it "makes it nearly impossible" for the United States and its allies to plan for a troop presence after 2014.

Psaki's comments come after a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai insisted Friday -- in a direct rebuff to the U.S. -- that the pact will be signed only after presidential elections scheduled for April.



A national assembly of tribal, community and elected leaders, known as a Loya Jirga, is meeting this week in Afghanistan to discuss the pact.

About 2,500 local and regional leaders are participating in the Loya Jirga, which has broken into small groups to study the proposed agreement item by item.

Most are believed to favor the deal, which spells out terms under which international forces would remain in the country to assist the government in its war against Taliban insurgents.

But U.S. officials were stunned Thursday when Mr. Karzai suggested that the formal signing of the pact could be put off until the middle of next year, when he will be out of office.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest stressed the importance of having the agreement signed this year so that long-term planning can begin. He noted the United States has not yet made a final decision on whether to keep its troops in Afghanistan.

But Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi said Friday the Afghan government is not impressed by U.S. deadlines. He repeated that the signing -- if there is one -- would take place after the April elections.

Mr. Karzai opened the assembly Thursday with an impassioned speech in support of the pact, saying it has the support of Afghanistan's major allies and neighbors except Iran.

The deal is to take effect January 1, 2015 and will keep U.S. troops and civilian personnel in Afghanistan for at least another decade and possibly even longer.

During his speech, Mr. Karzai read out parts of a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama that promised the United States will continue to "respect the sanctity and dignity of Afghans in their homes" under the new security agreement.

Mr. Obama's letter, released by the Afghan government, also said many Americans have died or been seriously wounded in an effort to help and protect the Afghan people.

A draft text of the agreement said U.S. troops will only enter Afghan homes in exceptional cases -- a point of contention in nearly a year of negotiations on the agreement.

The Jirga is expected to spend several days debating the pact, which will shape the security relationship between Washington and Kabul for years to come. The group must give its approval before the document goes to the Afghan parliament for a vote.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs