NATO chief hopeful Karzai successor will sign security pact

NATO’s chief said Wednesday that he’s hopeful a new president in Afghanistan will sign a security agreement allowing NATO to keep a long-term presence there.

"I hope, I expect, a new president to sign. Because a lot is at stake," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a defense ministers meeting in Brussels Wednesday, according to Reuters.

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NATO wants to keep between 8,000-to-12,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 as part of a training mission when the Afghan forces are given control of security.

But Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement (BSA) with the United States, and both the Obama administration and NATO have threatened a withdrawal of troops, as well as to cut off foreign aid.

Rasmussen said Wednesday that if a security pact is not in place, "then we can't deploy and then we will have to withdraw everything by the end of this year."

On Tuesday, President Obama spoke to Karzai, and he directed the Pentagon to prepare for the possibility of a full withdrawal by the end of 2014.

Karzai has refused to sign the security agreement until after the country’s presidential elections, which are in April. Karzai cannot run for a third term.

Rasmussen said Wednesday that “it may well be” that Karzai won’t sign the deal, though he said he was optimistic that Karzai’s successor would still do so.

Karzai’s spokesman said that Obama made a personal appeal to Karzai to sign the agreement during the Tuesday call, but Karzai rebuffed the request.