Sec. Kerry travels to Kabul to meet with Karzai
US Secretary of State John Kerry made an unscheduled trip to the Afghan capital to meet with President Hamid Karzai over negotiations for a future security pact.
US Secretary of State John Kerry began urgent talks Friday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai as an end-of-October deadline loomed for a security deal that would allow American troops to remain in Afghanistan after the NATO-led military mission ends next year.Skip to next paragraph
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Kerry's unannounced visit to Kabul comes as talks on the Bilateral Security Agreement have foundered over issues of Afghan sovereignty despite a year of negotiations.
The United States wants a deal by the end of the month, but discussions have stalled over Karzai's demand for American guarantees against future foreign intervention and US demands for any post-2014 residual force to be able to conduct counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations.
US officials insist they are optimistic about a deal, but the continuing deadlock leaves it doubtful that any agreement will be reached by month's end. If no deal is signed, there will be no US forces in Afghanistan after 2014.
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Officials traveling with Kerry told reporters aboard his plane that the US continues to believe the Oct. 31 deadline is "doable and desirable" and that failing to meet it would create significant problems.
They said uncertainty caused if no agreement is signed by the end of the month would make it more difficult to plan the next phases of withdrawal from Afghanistan and could erode the resolve of NATO allies that are considering leaving troops there for training.
Without the United States on board, it is unlikely that NATO or any of its allies would keep troops in Afghanistan. Germany has already indicated it will not commit the 800 soldiers it has promised.
"That's why we're pressing," said one of the officials traveling with Kerry.
However, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly preview Kerry's discussions with Karzai, stressed that Kerry is not expecting to clinch an agreement during his visit.
Instead, the trip, which Kerry and Karzai set up in an Oct. 5 phone call, is meant to build momentum for the negotiators who will continue their talks after Kerry departs, they said.
The atmosphere surrounding the talks has been soured by recent angry and emotional comments from Karzai complaining about the conduct of NATO forces.
One possible reason for the complaints could have been the capture of a senior Pakistani Taliban commander by U.S. forces on the same day Kerry and Karzai last spoke.
Pakistani intelligence officials, Pakistani Taliban and Afghan officials said Latif Mehsud was arrested by American forces as he was driving along a main highway. Karzai saw the move as an infringement on Afghan sovereignty.