White House: Likely Not a “˜Huge Problem’ If Security Pact Talks Slip Into January

But a spokesman maintained that the agreement should be signed as soon as possible.

US soldier, Specialist Joshua Schonert from 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 2-87 Infantry, 3d Brigade Combat Team under Afghanistan's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) lights a cigarette as he prepares for the day following earlier attacks by Taliban insurgents on their checkpoint in Kandalay village, Kandahar province southern Afghanistan on August 5, 2011. US troops together with forces from Afghan National Army repelled Taliban insurgents attacks on the checkpoint protecting the western area of Kandalay village. Since the checkpoint was set up in August 3, 2011, Taliban have staged attacks on the outpost for two consecutive days. AFP PHOTO / ROMEO GACAD (Photo credit should read ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images)
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Jordain Carney
Dec. 12, 2013, 2:16 a.m.

The White House on Wed­nes­day hedged slightly on its dead­line for Afghan Pres­id­ent Ham­id Kar­zai to sign a bi­lat­er­al se­cur­ity agree­ment dic­tat­ing troop levels after 2014.

White House deputy press sec­ret­ary Josh Earn­est main­tained that the pact should be signed by Dec. 31 so the mil­it­ary can be­gin its plan­ning, The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ports. But he ad­ded, “Now, if you’re ask­ing me, does that mean that if they sign it on Janu­ary 10 that’s go­ing to be a huge prob­lem? Prob­ably not.”

U.S. of­fi­cials would still like Kar­zai to sign the pact quickly, and have en­gaged in a pub­lic cam­paign with NATO al­lies to push him to do so, in­clud­ing say­ing that delay­ing hurts the mil­it­ary’s abil­ity to plan, de­creases glob­al sup­port for Afgh­anistan, and could cause the United States and NATO to com­pletely with­draw their troops.

Kar­zai, for his part, wants the pact to be signed after next year’s elec­tion. He also has in­creased his de­mands to in­clude a guar­an­tee that the U.S. troops won’t raid Afghan homes and that sig­ni­fic­ant pro­gress is be­ing made to­ward a re­con­cili­ation with the Taliban.

Earn­est’s state­ment isn’t the first time an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial has hedged on the dead­line. A seni­or of­fi­cial told The Wall Street Journ­al earli­er this month that “things don’t fall off a cliff on Decem­ber 31.”

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