Afghanistan’s failure to sign a status of forces agreement would be a “huge setback” for the United States, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Monday.
He also said it would be a repeat of Iraq, which refused to sign a deal and forced the withdrawal of all U.S. troops.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Sunday said if Afghanistan doesn't sign a deal, all U.S. troops might leave because of a lack of security.
“But that's — that's a huge setback for the United States of America,” McCain said on CBS’s “This Morning.” “It not only hurts Afghanistan, but we still haven't told the Congress and the Afghans how many troops we want to leave behind and doing what.”
The Defense Department had pressed for a deal by the end of the year but said last week it would have until February or March to come to an agreement with NATO and Afghanistan.
Tribal leaders have signed onto a deal, but President Hamid Karzai has refused.
Hagel was in Afghanistan over the weekend but did not meet with Karzai, arguing more pressure from the United States would not persuade him.
McCain said it was "remarkable" Karzai would not meet with U.S. officials given the "commitment and sacrifice" the U.S. has made in Afghanistan.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said U.S. officials' hands are tied if Karzai does not sign the deal.
She suggested it might be better to try to sign an agreement with Karzai's successor, something the committee's chairman, Carl Levin (D-Mich.), has endorsed.
“Some think … that we need to wait, because even if Karzai signed it, we can’t rely on him going forward since he is only going to be in office a few more months,” she said. “We maybe should try to tread water until a new president is elected in Afghanistan in the spring.”