Hagel given assurance on Afghan security deal

Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelThere's still time for another third-party option Hagel says NATO deployment could spark a new Cold War with Russia Overnight Defense: House panel unveils 5B defense spending bill MORE said Afghan Defense Minister Bismullah Mohammadi assured him that a security deal with the U.S. will be signed in a "timely manner," the Associated Press reported.
 
Hagel arrived in Afghanistan Saturday for a holiday visit with U.S. troops, amid tensions with the U.S.-backed Afghan regime.
 
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Hagel does not plan to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during his unannounced visit, the Pentagon said in a statement. 
 
The Obama administration and Karzai have been at odds over a long-term security agreement that Karzai has refused to sign. The dispute could lead to a hasty withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of 2014, from the country still in the grips of a civil war.
 
“The United States has made its position on the BSA clear,” a senior defense official said in a statement. “And just two days ago, President Karzai repeated his position to senior U.S. officials that he is not yet ready to sign the BSA and provided no timeline or practical step for doing so.”
 
Hagel traveled to Kabul from Bahrain where he gave a speech outlining U.S. military plans in the Middle East. He will visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia next.