News

Obama prepared for full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

Obama prepared for full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

OUT OF AFGHANISTAN: U.S. troops investigate the site of a suicide attack on a NATO base in Zhari, west of Kandahar province, Jan. 20. Photo: Reuters/Ahmad Nadeem

By Steve Holland and Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama has told the Pentagon to prepare for the possibility that the United States will not leave behind any troops in Afghanistan after its troop drawdown at the end of this year, the White House said on Tuesday.

Obama said he had given the order to the Pentagon in a phone call on Tuesday to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement that the United States insists it must have before agreeing to leave a contingent of troops behind.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was carrying the modified U.S. position to Brussels for discussion during a meeting with NATO defense ministers that starts on Wednesday.

“Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014,” the White House said.

The United States has held out the possibility of leaving behind in Afghanistan as many as 8,000 troops after the formal drawdown at year’s end. These troops would conduct counter-terrorism operations against al Qaeda targets and train Afghan forces.

Karzai’s refusal to sign a security deal has frustrated the White House, which has been forced to abandon an earlier demand that the Afghan president sign the deal in weeks, not months.

Staking out a new position, the White House statement said “we will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA (bilateral security agreement) later this year. However, the longer we go without a BSA, the more challenging it will be to plan and execute any U.S. mission.”

And the longer both countries go without a security deal, “the more likely it will be that any post-2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition,” the White House statement said.

Hagel said planning for what is known as “the zero option” is a prudent step given that Karzai has made clear he is unlikely to sign the security deal.

“As the United States military continues to move people and equipment out of the Afghan theater, our force posture over the next several months will provide various options for political leaders in the United States and NATO,” Hagel said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Susan Heavey)

Recent Headlines

in National, World

Israel intensifies Gaza assault, Egyptians revise truce plan

A Palestinian firefighter reacts as he tries to put out a fire at Gaza's main power plant, which witnesses said was hit in Israeli shelling, in the central Gaza Strip July 29, 2014.

Israel knocked out Gaza's only power plant, while Egyptian mediators prepared a revised proposal for halting its war with Islamist militants in the enclave.

in Sports

Star sprinter Torrin Lawrence dies at 25

FILE - In this June 20, 2013 file photo, Torrin Lawrence reacts after his heat in the senior men's 400-meter dash at the U.S. Championships athletics meet in Des Moines, Iowa. Former University of Georgia 400-meter runner Torrin Lawrence died in a car accident early Monday, July 28, 2014 in Cordele, Ga. He was 25.

Celebrated track star Torrin Lawrence has been killed in a tragic road accident in Georgia.

in National

U.S. marshals, police wounded, fugitive dead in NYC gunfight

A New York Police Officer stands guard inside a cordoned area at the site of a shooting in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York on July 28, 2014.

Two U.S. marshals and a New York police detective were wounded and a fugitive wanted on sex abuse charges was killed in a shootout in Greenwich Village.

in National, World

U.S says Russia violated nuclear treaty, urges immediate talks

FOR USE AS DESIRED, YEAR END PHOTOS - FILE - President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, Monday, June 17, 2013. Obama and Putin discussed the ongoing conflict in Syria during their bilateral meeting.

In another sign of deteriorating relations, the U.S. government claims that Moscow has violated the Cold War treaty.

in National, World

Civilians killed in eastern Ukraine amid fierce fighting

Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard on the suburbs of Shakhtarsk, Donetsk region on July 28, 2014.

Intense fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine kills at least 19 civilians.