U.S. considers new Afghan exit plan

AFP-JIJI

New signs emerged Tuesday of U.S. frustration with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, with a report that Washington may hasten its troop withdrawal or even leave no forces behind after 2014.

The New York Times reported that both options were being seriously considered following a tense teleconference between President Barack Obama and Karzai late last month.

It was unclear, however, whether the information was being used by the administration to pressure Karzai following a spat with the White House over peace talks with the Taliban.

The idea of a “zero option” of leaving no troops behind was first mooted earlier this year by U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. At the time, the comment was widely interpreted as a way of cranking up heat on Karzai as Washington and Kabul try to negotiate a treaty on post-2014 security arrangements.

Some internal Washington power games may also have been involved, as the White House and the Pentagon have often been at odds over troop numbers and the pace of the withdrawal since the beginning of Obama’s administration.

Obama is committed to bringing U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan to an end by 2014, as part of his administration’s core project of ending foreign wars. However, his administration is negotiating with Karzai on leaving behind a “residual” force to fight any renewed terrorism threat and to train Afghan forces.