Not Signing BSA by Karzai Puts Afghan Mission at Risk: NATO

KABUL: (MEP) – NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Tuesday that NATO would have to pull all its troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 if Afghan President Hamid Karzai does not sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the U.S.

“But it is clear that if there is no signature on the legal agreement, there can be no deployment and the planned assistance will be put at risk. It is my firm hope and intention therefore, to continue our efforts to support Afghanistan once these agreements are concluded,” Rasmussen said.

Last month, Karzai rejected the Loya Jirga’s recommendation to sign the BSA, which would ensure a continued military partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends in 2014. He said he would not sign the pact before the April elections, and only then, if the U.S. met three preconditions: transparent elections in April, no raids on Afghan homes and a breakthrough in talks with the Taliban, tolo news reported.

“We have pledged to contribute to financing the Afghan security forces. That assistance is put at risk if we can’t deploy our own training mission to Afghanistan and furthermore the international community has pledged to provide development assistance to Afghanistan. That aid might also be put at risk. So a lot is at stake and I’m hopeful that the bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States will be signed and pave the way for a NATO legal framework so that we can deploy a training mission after 2014,” Rasmussen added.

He voiced hope Karzai would follow the advice of the Loya Jirga and sign the BSA.

The NATO-led force currently has around 80,000 troops in Afghanistan, the majority American. NATO is winding down combat operations, handing responsibility to the Afghan security forces, before most foreign combat forces pull out by the end of 2014.

NATO plans to leave a training mission, expected to number 8,000 to 12,000 soldiers, in Afghanistan after 2014.

The agreement that NATO needs with Afghanistan is modelled on the proposed U.S. pact and, in any case, Washington is expected to supply most of the forces for the post-2014 NATO mission, so without the United States, the mission is unlikely to be feasible.

The NATO Foreign Ministers meet in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss Afghanistan. The delay in signing the U.S.-Afghan security pact is causing mounting frustration among NATO diplomats because it is holding up detailed military planning for the post-2014 mission.

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