Dempsey concerned Afghan forces will ‘hedge their bets’

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey said Wednesday he’s concerned the prospect of a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could cause some Afghan forces to cooperate with the Taliban to “hedge their bets.”

Visiting Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, Dempsey said in an interview with The Associated Press that the stalled U.S.-Afghan security agreement was encouraging the Taliban to take bold actions and making Afghan military leaders anxious.

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"It is having an effect on the enemy and, in some ways, I think encourages them, and intelligence supports that," Dempsey said.

President Obama spoke by phone with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday; he said the U.S. was planning to move ahead with plans to remove all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The Obama administration wants to leave several thousand troops behind in a training role after security is transferred to the Afghans at the end of the year. But Karzai’s refusal to sign the bilateral security agreement (BSA) until after the country’s presidential elections has left a long-term U.S. presence in doubt.

“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,” the White House said in a statement Tuesday.

Dempsey was in Afghanistan to meet with his commanders, and he told them to focus on the work they have to do this year and not what comes afterward, according to the AP.

He said the impasse over the security pact could prompt some Afghan forces to work with the Taliban in case of a full U.S. withdrawal.

“There are parts of the country where it seems to be, there will — with some likelihood ... be some accommodations between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban," Dempsey said. "I think a delay in the [security agreement] might accelerate those kind of accommodations. I don't think it will be widespread by the way, but we do have to be alert to that possibility."

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