President Obama called President Karzai today to discuss preparations for Afghanistan’s coming elections, Afghan-led peace and reconciliation efforts, and the Bilateral Security Agreement.
The President welcomed the beginning of Afghanistan’s Presidential campaign season and affirmed the United States’ support for a fair, credible, timely, and Afghan-led process. As Afghans soon take the important step of heading to the election polls, they should know that the United States will be committed to supporting the Afghan security forces as they make preparations to secure the Afghan elections. The two leaders noted the important role that independent Afghan electoral bodies would play in overseeing a historic transfer of power, and the President reiterated that the United States would not support any candidate in the elections — the choice of who leads Afghanistan is for Afghans to make. President Karzai updated the President regarding Afghan-led peace and reconciliation efforts, and the leaders noted that it was critical for regional countries to support a political solution to the conflict.
With regard to the Bilateral Security Agreement, in advance of the NATO Defense Ministerial, President Obama told President Karzai that because he has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the BSA, the United States is moving forward with additional contingency planning. Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014. At the same time, should we have a BSA and a willing and committed partner in the Afghan government, a limited post-2014 mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and going after the remnants of core Al Qaeda could be in the interests of the United States and Afghanistan. Therefore, we will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA with Afghanistan later this year. However, the longer we go without a BSA, the more challenging it will be to plan and execute any U.S. mission. Furthermore, 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 United States continues to support a sovereign, stable, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, and will continue our partnership based on the principles of mutual respect and mutual accountability. We remain fully supportive of our partners in the Afghan security forces, and we continue to proudly work side by side with the many Afghans who continue to work to ensure the stability and prosperity of their fellow citizens.