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US ‘nowhere near’ decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan

339351_James DobbinsThe US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan says the White House is “nowhere near” deciding to pull out all troops from Afghanistan at the end of the 2014 withdrawal deadline.

“We’re nowhere near a decision that would involve our departing Afghanistan altogether,” Ambassador James Dobbins told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as tensions mounting between the two countries over a security deal allowing the US military to remain in the Asian nation after next year.

“I have no doubt that the (bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan) ultimately will be concluded,” Dobbins said, adding that the Obama administration is not on the verge of abandoning its effort to extend its troop presence.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the security deal, endorsed by Afghan elders and politicians last month, saying the US military must first halt their night raids on Afghan homes.

In an interview published Tuesday by the French daily Le Monde, Karzai accused the US of “absolutely” acting like a colonial power in its attempts to force him to sign the security agreement by the end of this year.

“The threats they [American officials] are making, ‘We won’t pay salaries, we’ll drive you into a civil war.’ These are threats,” the paper quoted the Afghan president as saying.

He said he could “green light” the agreement before presidential elections due next April under two conditions: an end to airstrikes and foreign raids on Afghan homes; and greater US efforts to help broker peace with the Taliban.

If no deal can be finalized, Washington says it will withdraw its entire force of 47,000 troops in a little over a year. Other NATO nations are likely to follow suit.

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