Washington had promised to withdraw all combat forces from Afghanistan by 2014. However, it has been locked in tricky negotiations with Kabul over a strategic partnership beyond 2014.’The US ambassador to Afghanistan, James Cunningham has said presence of US military beyond 2014 in Afghanistan is based upon the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the two countries. Cunningham made his remarks during a press conference in Kabul on Monday, adding Washington is not considering “zero option,” though the presence of US forces in Afghanistan is highly dependent on the strategic deal. His comments came one day after the Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul announced that the Kabul government would not accept any deadline to finalize the bilateral security agreement with Washington, saying the country is not in hurry to sign the deal. The US ambassador, however, stressed that the security cooperation and the post-2014 military presence of US in the warn-torn country might be on hold if the pact was not inked, expecting the deal is finalized by October.
"We do not see any reason to delay the agreement. There are lots of good reasons not to, including the need of our military and partners to plan. I think Afghanistan and its international partners will all benefit from the clarity that finishing the BSA will provide," Cunningham stated.Meanwhile, Abdul Karim Khoram, the presidential chief of staff, recently warned Kabul of “paying high price for giving military bases to the US,” saying Washington must meet the pre-conditions set by the government first, before signing the security pact. Afghan President Hamid Karzai had earlier said that his government would only sign the agreement if it led to a stronger, safer, and more united Afghanistan. This is while, the US envoy stated, “I do not think anyone, the US or anyone else can guarantee the security of Afghanistan other than Afghans themselves," referring to the demands of the Karzai government for economic and security guarantees for signing the agreement. Washington had promised to withdraw all combat forces from Afghanistan by 2014. However, it has been locked in tricky negotiations with Kabul over a strategic partnership beyond 2014. On June 19, President Karzai suspended the BSA talks with the US due to what he called “a contradiction between what the US government says and what it does regarding Afghanistan peace talks.” Karzai’s decision came after direct talks between the Taliban militants and US officials were reported. The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of the so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but after more than 11 years, insecurity remains across the country. MM/HN