WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday raised the possibility of complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, leaving security of the central Asian country in the balance.
In a phone conversation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama said Washington would move forward with "additional contingency planning" for an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year since Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement, which grants legal immunity to residual American troops.
Obama, however, left open the possibility of concluding the security pact with Afghanistan later this year, as a new Afghan president will emerge in elections slated for April.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that the Pentagon will work to ensure that adequate plans are in place for an orderly withdrawal by the end of 2014.
In a statement, the Pentagon chief called the potential "zero option" a prudent step in face of Karzai's unwillingness 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 Untied States and NATO," Hagel said.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, also stressed the importance of a bilateral security pact between the United States and Afghanistan.
He warned Tuesday on his way to Afghanistan that time is running out and that there is a point at which the option of having U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 may no longer be feasible.
"What I don't want to do is run out of options for our elected leaders or for Afghanistan," he told reporters traveling with him.
NATO's separate combat mission in Afghanistan ends at the end of the year. A follow-up NATO mission -- Operation Resolute Support -- begins Jan. 1, which will see NATO forces engaged at the regional level helping to train, advise and assist Afghan army and police formations. By then NATO would need the Afghan government's approval to legally remain in the country.
Before this can happen, Afghanistan must sign the bilateral security agreement with Washington. Once the U.S.-Afghan agreement is signed, NATO will negotiate a similar pact.
The residual American troops will also be tasked with training and assisting Afghan security forces and conducting counterterrorism operations beyond 2014 after most American and NATO combat troops exit.
Gen. Dempsey said the past year has been "surprisingly positive" for the Afghan national security forces. Both NATO and Afghan leaders underestimated the abilities of the newly formed apparatus, he said.
Since taking over security responsibilities throughout the country last year, Afghan forces have done very well. The Taliban obviously did not have much success, he said. They never retook territory, they launched few large attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul, and they have not discredited the security forces, the general noted.
But he emphasized that the question now is not how the Afghan forces are doing, but rather how the upcoming Afghan election will come off, and whether there will be a political system to embrace the Afghan forces and their progress in the months ahead.
KABUL, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- A spokesman for the Afghan government-backed peace body the High Peace Council (HPC), Mawlawi Shahzada Shahid has termed the United States arrogant and called for its forces withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Shahzada Shahid who spoke at a function in Kabul on Thursday, according to media reports said that America came here under the pretext of Osama bin Laden, and it is still here though Osama had been killed. Full story