Afghan expresses optimism Karzai will sign US pact

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Associated Press

Posted on January 30, 2014 at 8:02 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 30 at 12:31 PM

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — President Hamid Karzai's national security adviser expressed optimism Thursday that the Afghan leader will sign a key U.S. security pact before leaving office this year, a positive sign after weeks of deadlock and anti-American rhetoric from the government.

Rangin Dadfar Spanta said there have been recent talks with the U.S. to try to resolve the issue.

"We are working very intensively together with the United States authorities to reach and sign this agreement soon," Spanta said. "I cannot go today into detail, but I don't know — since two, three, four days, I am more optimistic compared to last week. Let us wait a few days more."

Washington has been frustrated by Karzai's refusal to sign the pact that would allow some U.S. troops to remain and keep training Afghan soldiers after the planned withdrawal of most troops by the end of this year. Without the agreement, American military trainers will be forced to pull out of Afghanistan, weakening the government's ability to fight the Taliban insurgency.

Also Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that at some point Karzai's indecision will interfere with Washington's need to plan the post-2014 military mission that the Afghan president himself has said he favors.

"You can't just keep deferring and deferring, because at some point the realities of planning and budgeting — it collides," Hagel told reporters flying with him to Poland.

However, Hagel said he respects Karzai's right to decide the matter as he sees fit, and noted that the United States' ability to influence Karzai's decision-making is "limited."

Along with elections to be held in April, the Bilateral Security Agreement is a pillar of the U.S.-led coalition's plan to end its 12-year mission in Afghanistan and hand over full security authority to the Afghan government at the end of 2014.

But Karzai repeatedly has declined to sign the document, instead saying he wants to wait to sign it after the country elects his successor in the coming April 5 presidential election.

If the deal falls apart, Afghanistan could lose up to $15 billion a year in aid, effectively collapsing its fragile economy and making it unable to pay its 350,000-strong army and police.

Insurgents in Afghanistan have intensified attacks recently in a campaign to regain territory as foreign forces prepare to leave the country at the end of 2014.

A suicide car bomber killed two police officers in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, officials said. The car bomber targeted a police and intelligence compound in Nangarhar province's Pachir Wagam district, said provincial spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

In the western province of Herat, another car bomb driven by a suicide attacker slammed into the vehicle of the police chief of Shindan district. The district administrator Abdul Hamid Noor said the police chief survived and only the attacker was killed.

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Associated Press writers Amir Shah in Kabul and Robert Burns in Warsaw contributed.

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