Afghanistan Wants to Delay Crucial U.S. Security Deal

(Reuters) -

President Hamid Karzai told his countrymen on Thursday a vital security pact with the United States should not be signed until after Afghanistan’s presidential election next April, prompting the White House to underscore its demand for a year-end deadline.

Karzai’s surprise move, which came shortly after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the pact’s language had been agreed upon, threw its future into question and seemed certain to reignite tensions with Washington.

The Afghan leader spoke to about 2,500 tribal elders and political leaders from across Afghanistan gathered in the capital to debate whether to allow U.S. troops to stay after the planned 2014 drawdown of foreign forces.

Without an accord on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), the United States says it could pull out all its troops at the end of 2014 and leave Afghan forces to fight the Taliban insurgency on their own.

In a statement certain to irritate the U.S., which is eager to clinch the deal as soon as possible, Karzai told the assembly any agreement on the status of U.S. forces would have to wait until after the election in April.