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.”