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 Sports

Dustin Johnson takes leave of absence from golf

Fresh
Dustin Johnson of the US plays a shot on the 17th fairway during the second day of the British Open Golf championship at the Royal Liverpool golf club, Hoylake, England, Friday July 18, 2014.

In a statement Thursday from Hambric Sports Management, the 30-year-old Johnson said his leave of absence was effective immediately.

in Sports

Another decent start for Woods at Firestone

Fresh
Tiger Woods answers questions at his news conference during the final practice day for the Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Akron, Ohio.

Woods made six birdies Thursday to open with a 2-under 68 at the Bridgestone Invitational, just four shots behind Marc Leishman.

in Sports

A’s & Tigers escalate arms race at MLB trade deadline

Fresh
oakland athletics and detriot tigers logos

Oakland sends Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Jon Lester while the Tigers pick up David Price in 3-team deal.

in Sports

Ravens’ Rice publicly apologizes to wife for domestic violence

rayrice

The running back apologizes to his wife for hitting her, vowing to be an "ambassador against domestic violence."

in Music, Entertainment

Lorde curating ‘Hunger Games’ soundtrack

lorde

The 17-year-old pop star is recording a single for the third installment of the franchise.

Bellingham Traffic