Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai speaking at a conference in Kabul, Afghanistan

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai speaking at a conference in Kabul, Afghanistan Rahmat Gul/AP

Karzai: There is ‘No Deadline’ to Sign Troop Deal

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the Dec. 31 deadline to sign a post-2014 troop deal is just ‘pressure’ from the U.S. But visiting Gen. Martin Dempsey said negotiations are ‘closed.’ By Stephanie Gaskell

Afghan President Hamid Karzai isn’t worried that the Dec. 31 deadline to sign a post-2014 troop agreement is nearing and says it’s actually the U.S. that’s holding up the deal.

The Obama administration wants the deal inked by the end of the year, and certainly by the NATO ministerial meeting in February, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said this week. Karzai has said he wants to wait until a successor is chosen to replace him in the April 5 presidential election. And he has imposed new conditions for the deal, including a promise from the U.S. military not to conduct any raids on Afghan homes.

Now the Afghan president says there is “no deadline” for a deal.

“There is not a deadline for its signing,” Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi told Defense One on Wednesday. “The signing only depends on the progress from the U.S. side -- progress on putting an absolute end to all military operations on Afghan homes and a meaningful launch of the Afghan-led peace process.”

“So there is no deadline for Afghanistan. Dec. 31 is just to pressure Afghanistan. It’s not a deadline in real terms,” Faizi said.

Ending raids on Afghan homes is a main sticking point preventing Karzai from signing the deal. “Attacking Afghan homes, conducting raids and military operations on Afghan homes is the clear violation of our sovereignty and the basic rights of the Afghan people,” Faizi said.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is visiting troops in Afghanistan, told reporters at Bagram Air Field on Wednesday that the negotiations over the bilateral security agreement are over.

“What was very clear is that over the course of an exhausting, really, negotiation over many months there was a text that was agreed upon. And that text was considered to be closed, at some point, and presented to the Loya Jirga," Dempsey said. "It's not our intention to reopen the text and to renegotiate that which had been already discussed."

[READ MORE: Hagel Gives Karzai Until February to Sign Troop Deal – But Not April]

The bilateral security agreement, which Karzai’s office posted online, addresses raids on Afghan homes.

“U.S. military counter-terrorism operations are intended to complement and support [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] counter-terrorism operations, with the goal of maintaining ANDSF lead, and with full respect for Afghan sovereignty and full regard for the safety and security of the Afghan people, including in their homes,” it says. U.S. troops, it adds, “shall not target Afghan civilians, including in their homes, consistent with Afghan law and United States forces’ rules of engagement.”

Still, Karzai isn’t rushing to sign the deal. He is a lame-duck president with just a little more than three months left in office, but he still wields great influence. The security agreement could be his final major decision as president of Afghanistan.

Karzai hasn’t been afraid to criticize the United States. Earlier this week, he accused the United States of acting like “a colonial power” and recently signed a new agreement of cooperation with Iran.

“We just want to make sure it is not business as usual for the U.S. in Afghanistan after the signing of [the] BSA,” Faizi told Defense One. Faizi also said Karzai isn’t concerned with how many U.S. and NATO troops would stay after the 2014 withdrawal, a figure that still hasn’t been released, though many put it somewhere between 8,000 and 12,000 troops.

“The number is up to the U.S. president to decide,” Faizi said. “It is not the number of troops which matter to us but the nature of their mission. We want future U.S. military presence to be in accordance with the Afghan law and does not violate our sovereignty and the basic rights of our people.”