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NATO Chief Says U.S.-Afghan Pact Crucial

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says it is crucial Kabul sign a security pact with the United States.
The head of NATO says the military alliance will have to pull all its troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 if Afghan President Hamid Karzai does not sign a security pact with the United States.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on December 2 that without the U.S.-Afghan accord, NATO will not be able to finalize its own agreement with the Afghan government.

Earlier in the day, an unnamed NATO official told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the alliance would like to establish four bases in Afghanistan after 2014.

The U.S.-Afghan pact spells out the terms and conditions to allow U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, when most foreign troops are to have withdrawn from the country.

An Afghan council of elders has backed the agreement, but Karzai wants the final decision made by his successor after elections in April.

However, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on December 2 that such action was "not viable."

"Deferring the signature of the agreement until after next year's election is not viable. It would not provide Afghans with the certainty that they deserve regarding their future in the critical months leading to the election, nor would it provide the United States and NATO allies the clarity necessary for a potential post 2014 military presence. So we are continuing to convey that," Psaki told reporters in Washington.

Analysts say Karzai is delaying because he wants changes to the pact, including a ban on U.S. troops raiding Afghan homes.

'First Link In The Chain'

The security agreement is likely to be the focus of discussions when NATO foreign ministers start a two-day meeting in Brussels later on December 3.

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute told reporters on December 2 that the deal was an important "first link in the chain" that could ultimately bring more than $8 billion for Afghan security forces and development assistance.

Earlier, the Afghan government claimed the United States was withholding fuel and military supplies to pressure Kabul to sign the accord.

A statement from the Afghan presidential office said, "Cutting supplies is not in line with U.S. commitments."

The NATO-led international force denied any stoppage in the delivery of fuel.

"We continue to process orders as soon as they are received from Afghan National Security Forces," it said in a statement.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, and RFE/RL
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