Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement that would allow thousands of US troops to remain in country as trainers and advisors to Afghan security forces following the end of NATO combat operations in 2014. A grand assembly of thousands of Afghan delegates, assembled by Karzai, approved the draft bilateral security agreement, but in a surprising move, Karzai called for delaying its signing until after the Afghan presidential election in April, reported Britain’s Guardian on Nov. 24. “If I sign and there is no security, then who is going to be blamed for it?” asked Karzai in addressing the delegates. US National Security Advisor Susan Rice is expected to meet with Karzai in Kabul to urge him to sign the agreement without delay, reported Agence France Presse. “The critical next step” in a long-term partnership with the United States “must be to get the BSA signed in short order,” said Secretary of State John Kerry in a Nov. 24 statement.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.