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US Lawmakers Meet With Afghan Officials Over Security Agreement

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss a still unsigned bilateral security agreement which will determine the scope of activity for American troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

In comments to reporters Saturday in Kabul, Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte said no U.S. soldiers would remain in Afghanistan without a signed agreement in place. Ayotte called on U.S. President Barack Obama to immediately announce the number of American troops he wants stationed in Afghanistan after the NATO-led combat mission formally ends in December.

Ayotte, the U.S. delegation's head and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged Mr. Karzai to quickly sign the pact and end uncertainty stemming from his reluctance to do so.

Mr. Karzai has said he wants the U.S. to help him open peace talks with the Taliban insurgency and press neighboring Pakistan to play a role in the reconciliation process. The Afghan leader also has said he wants U.S. assurances it will stop nighttime raids on Afghan homes.

The Afghan leader says he will leave the security pact for his successor to sign after the April 5 presidential elections.

President Obama, meanwhile, has directed the Pentagon to proceed with contingency planning to ensure that plans are in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal of all U.S. forces by the end of the year.