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Obama threatens Karzai with full US withdrawal

U.S. Military Prepares For Full Afghan Withdrawal

WASHINGTON (AP) - Frustrated with his Afghan counterpart, President Barack Obama is ordering the Pentagon to accelerate planning for a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year. But Obama is also holding out hope that Afghanistan's next president may eventually sign a stalled security agreement that could prevent the U.S. from having to take that step.

Obama spoke Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the first direct conversation between the two leaders since last June. The White House has become increasingly frustrated with Karzai, who has refused to sign a security pact that the White House says is crucial to keeping a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after the war formally concludes at the end of this year.

With no sign that Karzai will sign the agreement, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama "has tasked the Pentagon with preparing for the contingency that there will be no troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014." However, he added that the U.S. remains open to keeping troops in Afghanistan if an agreement can be signed later this year, likely after the April Afghan elections.

That decision appeared aimed at marginalizing Karzai's role in the high-stakes negotiations over the future of the lengthy American-led war. The Afghan leader has deeply irritated Washington with anti-American rhetoric, as well as with his decision this month to release 65 prisoners over the objections of U.S. officials.

The White House insists it won't keep any American troops in Afghanistan after December without a security agreement giving the military a legal basis for staying in the country. While the White House did not publicly set a deadline for finalizing the agreement before that time, officials said the size and scope of any U.S. mission could shrink the longer Obama waits.

Despite the troubled ties between Washington and Kabul, many of Obama's advisers want to see American troops stay in Afghanistan after the war ends. The Pentagon envisions keeping up to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan to focus on counterterrorism and the training of Afghan security forces, though some White House advisers would prefer keeping fewer troops, if any.

The U.S. military has also drawn up blueprints for a full withdrawal, and Tuesday's developments appeared to push that idea closer to the forefront of Pentagon planning.

Obama's call with Karzai coincided with key military meetings on Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will meet with his NATO counterparts in Brussels later this week. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, arrived in Afghanistan on Tuesday to visit U.S. military leaders in the country and assess the security situation on the ground.

Dempsey, speaking to reporters traveling with him, said that while the U.S. remains committed to helping Afghanistan after this year, "I can't ask the young men and women to serve in a country without the protections afforded by a bilateral security agreement."

"We are at a point where we have to begin planning for other options," Dempsey said.

The prospect of a full American withdrawal has led to concern among Afghanistan's neighbors, most notably Pakistan, where officials have warned that a civil war could break out and further destabilize the region. Pakistani officials also worry that Afghan security forces will fracture and as many as one-third of the force could desert without continued U.S. assistance.

The U.S. and Afghanistan agreed to details of a security pact last year, and the agreement was also endorsed by a council of 3,000 Afghan tribal elders known as the Loya Jirga. But Karzai caught U.S. officials off guard by then declaring he wanted his successor to sign the agreement.

It's unclear whether Afghanistan's new president will be any more likely than Karzai to do so. There is no clear front-runner among the 11 candidates running to replace the president, who is constitutionally ineligible for a third term and has not endorsed a successor.

Among those running are Abdullah Abdullah, who was the runner-up to Karzai in disputed 2009 elections; Qayyum Karzai, a businessman and the president's older brother; and Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and academic. Most of the candidates are familiar to U.S. officials.

The longer the U.S. waits to decide on its future in Afghanistan, the more expensive and risky a full withdrawal would become. With less time to move troops and equipment, the military will have to fly assets out rather than use cheaper ground transportation.

The Pentagon's biggest challenge will be closing large military facilities, including the Bagram and Kandahar air bases. Shutting down a massive base typically takes about 10 months, but military officials said they are prepared to do it in a much shorter - although far more expensive - period if necessary. Military officials said commanders would still like to have about six months.

The Pentagon is currently planning to cut the total American force in Afghanistan to as low as 20,000 by midsummer, giving commanders the ability to pull all troops out by Dec. 31 if no agreement is reached. There are currently about 33,600 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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upperwestbud February 27 2014 at 2:58 AM

It is time for Afghanistan to stand on their own, it's up to them, all of them. I support President Obama's words and as an American who supports us helping others, our time there is over. It's time to bring our men and women home and let Afghanistan decide their future on their own.

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Peppie February 27 2014 at 2:48 AM

I've been around for twelve presidents and a royal King as he sees himself. And boy what a mess he has put this country in.

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jwind2020 February 27 2014 at 2:46 AM

I spent 28 years in the military and spent time in that region. There is not one good reason] to risk an American life in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or that region of the world. Get the US out of tribal wars in not only that region but also the middle east.

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Peppie February 27 2014 at 2:39 AM

This sure is a big joke we have in the WH. The whole world knows that America is nothing anymore. America is like the third world countries. We can't trust our goverment about anything they say. Power--Power--Power is all they think about if its going to line their pockets. To hell with the little man. We need a man like Putin.

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1 reply to Peppie's comment
rothhammer1 February 27 2014 at 3:58 AM

You could always move to Russia,
then you'll have all the Putin you desire.

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criterion29 February 27 2014 at 1:23 AM

Vietnam , all over ,,,,,,,,, let them kill each other

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God Bless You February 27 2014 at 1:20 AM

After spending billions and sacrifizing thousands of our brave soldiers, we have nothing to show not even from the Aghanistan Government. Why do we need their permission to safeguard our people from the Talibans and AlQaeda Terrorists. We invaded that place because of the 09/11, to killed these radicals that had taken over Afghanistan and they will do it again if we allow our President to do nothing about it. Remember what happened in Vietnam. At least we didnot have a real reason to be in Vietnam, but we do have the reason to have sent our troops to Aghanistan .

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bobby February 27 2014 at 1:10 AM

Wait, is he going to draw another "line in the sand"? The biggest COWARD we've ever had in office. He's a joke around the world. He has lost the respect of World Leaders. Putin looks at him as a little boy playing President. I'm sure this is the fundamental change he was talking about, right?

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SemperFidelis February 27 2014 at 1:07 AM

Only 2 more years till we get another beast with 2 heads in office. Sure they are quaking with his threat. Hell they don't want us there anyway. We have been fighting this political war for way to long. We shouldn't even go to war unless that's the intended path. This war has been fought by politicians and lobbyist with our men and women of the military paying the price. They join with a open check all the way up to their life and then get screwed with broken promises when they get out.

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Myron E Holley February 27 2014 at 12:11 AM

DO NOT TALK A BOUT IT DUM DUM. DO IT.

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icemann88888 February 27 2014 at 12:02 AM

Karzai is playing games with US and hoping that he can blackmail us for more money ! Afghanistan strategically not important to US. British tried 400 years to civilized the country at the end they have given up. Unfortunately our politicians did not learn their lessons, not to get involved with the Tribal countries....

Bush Jr. messed up the middle east by occupying Irak , involving with the Afghanistan. Obama is still following his policy! Wasting our brothers and sisters in those countries is madness!!!

We can use the money we are spending for these countries to help our own people in our country!
I hope Pres. Obama is not going to get involved with the Syrians...what I really do not understand why we have to solve other countries' problems, while European Union sit on their asses and do nothing? May be even they laugh to us how our dummy politicians try to be the saviors of the world...lol!

Above statement is my OPINION some people may not agree with it....

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