KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai will continue to defy U.S. threats to walk away from a security agreement between the two countries and plans to reiterate in a speech to a grand council Sunday that he will not sign it before spring, his spokesman said Saturday.
“They have waited this long, they can certainly wait five more months,” spokesman Aimal Faizi said Saturday of the Americans. The Obama administration has characterized the deal, whose terms Karzai agreed to last week, as a “final offer” that must be completed by the end of this year.
Karzai appears certain the administration is bluffing, saying through the spokesman that he does not believe the United States will resort to the “zero option” of canceling plans to leave a residual troop force in Afghanistan to train the Afghan military and continue counterterrorism operations after it withdraws combat forces in December 2014.
The U.S. also thought Karzai would change his tune after opening the assembly of more than 2,500 tribal elders and other leaders, called a loya jirga, Thursday with a speech vowing to delay finalizing the deal until after Afghanistan’s presidential election in April.
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The Obama administration remained publicly silent Saturday, while continuing talks in private.
U.S. officials in Washington, D.C., said they were heartened by statements coming out of the loya jirga. The officials pointed to a statement Saturday by Sebghattulah Mojaddidi, chairman of the loya jirga, who said Karzai has “no right” to delay the signing of the accord. “If the U.S. has accepted our terms, then we should not delay,” he said.
Material from Bloomberg News is included in this report.