The Afghan government had ignored U.S. demands for it to sign a
framework security agreement by the end of 2013, after protracted
negotiations that have strained relations between the two countries.
U.S. officials say unless a deal is reached to keep upwards of 8,000
U.S. troops inside the country after 2014, the United States might
instead completely withdraw from the country.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has expressed skepticism at the
U.S. threat for a complete withdrawal.
"Our position continues to be that if we cannot conclude a bilateral
security agreement promptly, then we will be forced to initiate
planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or
NATO troop presence in Afghanistan," White House spokesman Jay
Carney told reporters.
Without a deal, the United States could pull out all troops, the
so-called "zero option," leaving Afghan forces to battle the Taliban
on their own.
Carney said the longer the issue drags into 2014, "the more likely
that outcome will come to pass" in which the United States would
leave no troops behind for the training of Afghan forces or
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"Look, I don't have specific deadlines or other policy decisions to
announce today. But I can tell you that we are talking about weeks,
and not months. And, you know, the clock is ticking," Carney said.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Bernard Orr)
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