The U.S. national intelligence chief has said he does not believe Afghan President Hamid Karzai will sign a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States.
Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington on February 11, James Clapper said the opinion was his own and did not necessarily reflect the White House's view.
Clapper is the highest-level U.S. official to express such explicit doubt.
The United States wants to keep some 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the pullout of most foreign forces at the end of this year, but has warned it could pull out all of its troops unless the pact is signed soon.
When asked, Clapper said it might have a "salutary effect" if Washington simply announced it would wait for the next Afghan president to sign it.
Afghanistan holds a presidential election in April.
Russia Could Be Behind Nuland Leak
Clapper also told the Senate hearing that Russia could be responsible for the release of a telephone-call recording in which a senior American diplomat crudely dismisses the European Union.
However, he said that officials still "don't know" who was behind last week’s leak.
Nonetheless, he added that Russia "would certainly be on the potential list of suspects."
Russia has denied involvement in recording and releasing on the Internet the private call between the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.
In the call, Nuland uses an expletive to dismiss EU mediation efforts in the dispute between the Russian-backed Ukrainian government and the Western-backed opposition
With reporting by Reuters and AFP