Obama Intel Chief: Karzai Won’t Sign Afghan Troop Agreement

The administration is looking to Karzai’s successor to finish the pact.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 29: A member of CodePink protests as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (C) takes his seat prior to a hearing before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee October 29, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on "Potential Changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)." 
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Sara Sorcher
Feb. 11, 2014, 6:31 a.m.

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Afghan Pres­id­ent Ham­id Kar­zai is not go­ing to sign a se­cur­ity pact to al­low U.S. troops to stay in the coun­try past the end of this year, In­tel­li­gence chief James Clap­per told the Sen­ate on Tues­day.

In­stead, it ap­pears the U.S. will have to wait for his suc­cessor.

Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Carl Lev­in — a Michigan Demo­crat who wants to wait to sign the agree­ment un­til Kar­zai’s re­place­ment is elec­ted this spring — asked dur­ing a com­mit­tee hear­ing, “Wouldn’t it just clear the air to say we’re go­ing to wait for the next pres­id­ent?”

“Ob­vi­ously, it takes two to sign it,” Clap­per replied. “It may not be com­pany policy,” Clap­per said, but on a per­son­al level, “I don’t be­lieve Pres­id­ent Kar­zai is go­ing to sign it.”

Clap­per’s com­ments come as news breaks that the U.S. mil­it­ary is re­vis­ing its plans to with­draw troops from Afgh­anistan un­til after Kar­zai leaves of­fice — a re­flec­tion of a need to be prag­mat­ic as hopes wane to fi­nal­ize an agree­ment.

After more than a year of tough ne­go­ti­ations over the post-2014 part­ner­ship between the U.S. and Afgh­anistan, Kar­zai has backed away since late last year from sign­ing the much-an­ti­cip­ated se­cur­ity pact — even after a con­ven­tion of Afgh­anistan’s 2,500 tri­bal eld­ers gave their ap­prov­al. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has been push­ing Kar­zai to sign the agree­ment, since it will al­low them cru­cial time to plan to either leave a con­tin­gent of U.S. troops, or re­move them from the coun­try al­to­geth­er.

The U.S. mil­it­ary on Tues­day also con­demned the Afghan gov­ern­ment for plan­ning to free 65 de­tain­ees it be­lieves are dan­ger­ous and pose a ser­i­ous threat to the lives of co­ali­tion and loc­al Afghan troops. “Ac­tions like this make it very hard for an Amer­ic­an politi­cian to do busi­ness as usu­al in Afgh­anistan,” Sen. John Mc­Cain said.

Mean­while, as the U.S. pre­pares to end its com­bat op­er­a­tions, De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency Dir­ect­or Mi­chael Flynn said the loc­al Afghan forces are hav­ing trouble hold­ing areas that have been cleared of mil­it­ants. The Afghan se­cur­ity forces, Flynn said, have shown mod­est pro­gress in their abil­ity to clear in­sur­gents from con­tested areas, and are plan­ning and con­duct­ing se­cur­ity op­er­a­tions.

But the lack of a bind­ing, longterm agree­ment pro­vokes con­fu­sion among the loc­al forces, Flynn said. “I think there’s great un­cer­tainty in their minds, be­cause of the lack of sign­ing of the [Bi­lat­er­al Se­cur­ity Agree­ment], to be very can­did.”

The troops also suf­fer be­cause of the lack of in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance, and re­con­nais­sance cap­ab­il­it­ies, and tech­no­logy for coun­ter­ing im­pro­vised ex­plos­ive devices, oth­er­wise known as road­side bombs, Flynn said. Pres­id­en­tial elec­tions this Spring could also bring up­heav­al. “The lack of a con­sensus can­did­ate could lead to a po­ten­tially destabil­iz­ing run­off elec­tion, that would oc­cur dur­ing the peak of the in­sur­gent fight­ing sea­son and ISAF’s draw­down.”

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