KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan on Friday brushed aside an end-of-the-year U.S. deadline for signing a 10-year security pact between the two nations that would continue
The spokesman for President
"We have no deadline except what the president said yesterday in his speech," Karzai's spokesman, Aimal Faizi, told The Times in a text message Friday night.
U.S. Secretary of State
But in his speech Thursday to an assembly of 2,700 Afghan dignitaries in Kabul, Karzai abruptly announced his intention to wait until after elections in April to select a new Afghan president. Karzai previously had said he would not sign the agreement unless it is approved by the assembly, a traditional gathering known as a loya jirga.
The deal must also be approved by Afghanistan's parliament, which is expected to endorse it. Karzai told the loya jirga Thursday that the pact is crucial for Afghanistan's security, but said he was resisting pressure by the U.S. for a quick signature.
"We should wait and see and let the jirga work on the BSA,'' Faizi said Friday, referring to the Bilateral Security Agreement. "
"Peace and security is what the people of Afghanistan want from the U.S.," he added. "This has been a condition and official line from our side in the negotiation."
The Reuters news agency quoted Faizi as saying of the U.S.: "They have set other deadlines also, so this is nothing new for us."
When negotiations over the security pact opened a year ago, officials set a deadline for an agreement within 12 months.
The proposed agreement would allow deployment of U.S. military advisors to train and provide logistical support for Afghan security forces fighting a stubborn Taliban insurgency that controls much of the rural areas of the country.
The deal would also permit U.S. special operations forces to enter Afghan homes on counter-terrorism missions only "under extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk of life and limb of U.S. nationals," according to Obama's letter.
If the accord is signed, the
Karzai's decision to delay signing for months was interpreted by some Afghan analysts as a ploy to extract concessions he was unable to obtain from the U.S. prior to agreeing to the text of the accord, which his office distributed to loya jirga delegates for debate. The delay would also keep Karzai in the political spotlight through the remaining months of his presidential term.
The assembly is expected to vote on the proposed agreement by Sunday.