Millennium Post

Afghan officials skeptical as US mulls complete withdrawal

The United States is considering pulling out all its troops from Afghanistan next year but is far from making a decision, White House and Pentagon officials said on Tuesday, but Afghan officials expressed skepticism thatPresident Barack Obama would back a complete withdrawal.

Amid tensions between Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the path forward, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that a ‘zero option’ of leaving no US troops in Afghanistan after 2014 is among the policy possibilities under consideration.

‘This is not a decision that is imminent,’ Carney said.
Obama is committed to winding down US military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The United States has been talking with officials in Afghanistan about keeping a small residual force there of perhaps 8,000 troops after 2014.

At the Pentagon, spokesman George Little played down friction with Karzai and expressed confidence that there was still ‘plenty of time and space’ to negotiate a bilateral security pact allowing for US troops to stay in Afghanistan.

Karzai suspended talks on that pact in June, accusing Washington of mixed messages regarding peace talks with the Taliban. It was among the latest signs of deep tensions between US officials and the Afghan leader. A 27 June video conference between Obama and Karzai aimed at lowering tensions was confrontational, officials said.

‘I wouldn’t say that we’re frustrated. We continue to work through issues,’ Little said. ‘We realise that there are going to be points of contention from time to time. That’s natural of any partnership. But we think we can get through them.’

Senior Afghan figures close to Karzai expressed skepticism that the United States would consider a complete withdrawal.
‘Both sides understand how to pressure each other. But both the US and Afghanistan fully understand the need for foreign troops, especially US ones, to stay beyond 2014 and that it is vital for security here and in the wider region,’ a top palace official told Reuters hinting that mixed feelings dominate Kabul circuits.     
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