Rice in Afghanistan to salvage US role


National security adviser Susan Rice has landed in Afghanistan amid an escalating showdown over America's role after 12 years of war, the White House announced Monday.

The White House billed Rice's first trip in her new role as a long-planned visit to thank U.S. troops and civilians around the Thanksgiving holiday. It comes at a crucial moment for U.S.-Afghan relations, however, with President Hamid Karzai balking at a deal to keep U.S. troops in the country past 2014.

An assembly of 3,000 tribal leaders and political leaders signed off on the pact Sunday, but Karzai rejected their recommendation to quickly put the deal in place. Instead, he wants to wait until after presidential elections in April and is demanding that American troops be prohibited from entering Afghan homes under any circumstance, a non-starter for the Obama administration.

“My trust with America is not good,” Karzai said at the opening of the elders' meeting, the Loya Jirga. “I don't trust them and they don't trust me.”

The Obama administration is worried that leaving the country entirely could allow the Taliban to regain control but has made it clear that the deal needs to be in place by the end of the year. The pact would allow between 10,000 and 15,000 foreign troops — mostly Americans — to remain in the country for another decade.

“The people of Afghanistan have supported an agreement we have negotiated over a year, now it is time to sign it,” a senior defense official told The Wall Street Journal. “We want to make sure it is crystal clear with [Karzai] what our position is: If this deal is not signed by the end of the year, we don't see how it will be possible to fulfill the wishes of the Afghan people.”

Here's the full readout of Rice's trip: 

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden on National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice’s Travel to Afghanistan

On her first foreign trip as National Security Advisor to the President, Susan E. Rice is in Afghanistan November 23-26 on a long planned trip to visit our troops and civilians around the holidays, while also assessing the situation on the ground.   Afghanistan continues to be one of the United States’ top national security priorities, and this trip is an opportunity for Ambassador Rice to take stock of our efforts and meet with American troops serving in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and our civilians at the U.S. Mission to Afghanistan. On behalf of President Obama, she is thanking the men and women who are away from their families this Thanksgiving and serving in harm’s way. She will hear directly from U.S. troops, diplomats, and development professionals about our efforts as we move toward the responsible conclusion of our combat mission at the end of 2014 and as we continue to strengthen Afghanistan to ensure that it can provide security, governance, and opportunity for its people.   Ambassador Rice will also meet with Afghan civil society leaders and Afghan officials, as well as visit U.S.–supported assistance projects.

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