U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited with American forces on Saturday in Afghanistan. The visit come as President Hamid Karzai refuses to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), despite mounting pressure from Washington and Afghan officials.
Hagel’s unannounced visit lands him in the center of the chaos that has surrounded BSA negotiations in recent weeks, but he has no plans to meet with Karzai and may have little impact on the matter during his stopover.
Previous trips by U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry proved fruitless in resolving the remaining dispute between President Hamid Karzai and the White House over the timeline and conditions for the finalization of the BSA.
On Saturday, Fayeq Wahidi, Deputy Spokesman of President Karzai, said the U.S.’ pressure on the Afghan government would not impact its approach to the signing of the BSA.
The signing of the BSA has been stalled since President Karzai said he would not approve the accord until after the April elections, and only if the U.S. met certain preconditions, despite a Loya Jirga recommending the pact be signed as soon as possible.
Officials in Washington have said the agreement must be signed before the end of the year.
Wahidi said the U.S. thinks that putting pressure on Afghanistan would force the government to sign the pact, but that this was a “miscalculation.”
He said that the Afghan government knows that the U.S. can meet Kabul’s demands, which include advancing peace talks with the Taliban and ending foreign troop raids on Afghan homes.
Without a signed agreement, all U.S. troops would leave at the end of next year, along with all other NATO coalition forces. Military leaders have said they need time to plan and coordinate for the post-2014 mission, which could involve around 8,000 U.S. forces and another 6,000 NATO allied troops.
This is Hagel’s second trip to Afghanistan since he began as Secretary of Defense earlier this year.