Karzai to US: Negotiate Peace with Taliban or Leave
Afghan President Hamid Karzai told reporters on Saturday that unless the U.S. restarts peace talks with the Taliban, he will not sign the pending security pact between Kabul and Washington.
The pact, known as the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), would pave the way for U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 when the U.S./NATO-led combat mission ends.
"Afghanistan will absolutely not accept or sign anything under pressure," Karzai said during a press conference in Kabul, AFP reported.
"If they want to leave, then they [can] go and we will continue our lives... Our main condition is the practical start of [a] peace process,” he added.
AFP pointed out that while talking to reporters on Saturday, Karzai repeatedly said that “before he signs the BSA, the US must stop military operations and bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.”
According to The Christian Science Monitor, the Afghan president also told reporters that “starting peace talks is a condition because we want to be confident that after the signing of the security agreement, Afghanistan will not be divided into fiefdoms.”
“Afghans fear anarchy and chaos in the aftermath of the U.S.-NATO retreat. Thus, hereafter I will carry on my precondition and defer the security agreement unless the U.S. ensures expedited flow of peace negotiations and reconciliation,” Karzai warned, according to the Afghanistan Times.
A security deal between Kabul and Washington had already been reached, but Karzai threw the whole process into confusion by introducing new terms and conditions. Karzai is demanding that his conditions are met before signing the agreement.
The White House has said it will be forced to pursue complete U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan if Karzai does not sign the security pact.
U.S. military officials have proposed keeping a residual force of 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
During the press conference, the Afghan president also blamed U.S. military bases of contributing to insecurity in the country.
“The U.S. Bagram base itself is a Taliban nest. For over six years, U.S. officials rejected my proposal for closure of Bagram detention center. U.S. forces detain and torture innocent civilians under the pretext of terrorism; this is utterly against the Afghan government and its writ,” declared Karzai, according to the Afghanistan Times.