Contingency Plans Begin for Possible Full Afghanistan Withdrawal

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2014 - President Barack Obama today informed Afghan President Hamid Karzai that because the Afghan leader has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the bilateral security agreement on a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond this year, he 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.

In a summary of the Obama-Karzai phone call released to reporters, White House officials said Obama is leaving open the possibility of concluding a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan 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," they added. "Furthermore, the longer we go without a BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition."

Soon after, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released a statement expressing his "strong support" for the president's decision.

"This is a prudent step, given that President Karzai has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the bilateral security agreement, which would provide DOD personnel with critical protections and authorities after 2014," the secretary said. He also commended the efforts of Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., commander of U.S. forces and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and other military leaders to provide flexibility to the president as the United States works to determine the future of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

"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 his statement. "And during this time, DOD will still continue planning for U.S. participation in a NATO-led mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces, as well as a narrowly focused counterterrorism mission."

The United States will consult closely with NATO allies and ISAF partners in the months ahead, he added, noting that he looks forward to discussing U.S. planning with NATO and ISAF defense ministers in Brussels this week.

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