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Karzai Spokesman Suggests U.S. Withdrawal Reports 'Pressure' Tactic


"The New York Times" report suggested a video conference that "ended badly" between Afghan President Hamid Karzai (left) and U.S. President Barack Obama highlighted "slowly unraveling" relations between the two leaders.
KABUL -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai's spokesman has dismissed a "New York Times" report claiming U.S. President Barack Obama is considering an expedited and complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan as a tactic "aimed at putting pressure on Afghanistan."

Speaking to RFE/RL in Kabul, Aimal Faizi said that the "zero option" -- whereby there would be no U.S. troops left in Afghanistan after 2014 -- was never discussed with Kabul.

"The complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan is an issue that has never been brought up in joint meetings between Kabul and Washington. The report in 'The New York Times' is aimed at putting pressure on Afghanistan and on public opinion in the country," Faizi said.

"We have already put our conditions to the United States and have clearly told the United States that a final decision regarding the [U.S.-Afghan] security agreement will be made by the people of Afghanistan, and that is through a national jirga," he added, in a reference to the national parliament.

"The New York Times" reported on July 8 that a June 27 video conference between Obama and Karzai aimed at lowering tensions "ended badly."

The report said Karzai accused Washington of putting his government in danger by holding a separate peace with the Taliban and its Pakistani supporters.

"The New York Times" added that since after the video conference, a complete pullout from Afghanistan like the one from Iraq has moved from a "worst-case scenario" to a likely choice "under serious consideration in Washington and Kabul."

WATCH: Kurt Volker, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO and the current director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, talked to RFE/RL correspondent Abubakar Siddique about such a "zero option" proposal. He said it would be "catastrophic" and is unlikely.
Ex-Envoy To NATO: Early Afghan Pullout Would Be 'Catastrophic'
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White House spokesman Jay Carney, however, said Obama was considering the "zero option."

"The [zero] option has always been available and it is part of a process that is not focused on troop numbers but on policy objectives and how do we best do that. And part of how we best do that is, if we do decide to leave a residual force there in pursuit of these policy objectives, what kinds of agreements do we have with the Afghan government going forward with regards to that residual force," Carney told reporters in Washington on July 9.

Senior current and former Afghan officials, however, have said that despite the disagreements between Washington and Kabul, a precipitous U.S. withdrawal is unlikely.

Nasrullah Stanikzai, a former political aide to Karzai, said Kabul must pursue its own strategic and political interests in talks with Washington but tense relations between leaders of the two countries were not helping.

WATCH: White House spokesman Jay Carney talks about the options facing President Barack Obama.
Pentagon: Obama Reviewing Afghanistan Options
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Carney's comments come after reports on July 9 that the Taliban had temporarily closed its Doha office, where officials had hoped to resume Afghan peace talks. Taliban officials said the closure was to protest the removal of the Taliban flag and a nameplate with the movement's formal name, the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."

Karzai's government wanted such symbols removed, fearing they suggested the Taliban wanted to set up a government in exile.

"We've seen the reports about the Doha office, and as President Karzai and President Obama said, the surest way to a stable unified Afghanistan is for Afghans to talk to Afghans," Carney said. "And it is up to the Taliban to decide if they are serious about negotiations."

With reporting by "The New York Times"