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Amid signs that patience for the process may be faltering in Washington, officials say that US national security adviser Susan Rice warned Karzai, the Afghan president, that his latest proposal to delay signing the deal until next year would jeopardise their plan to keep a security presence in the country after the bulk of US troops pull out.
"Ambassador Rice reiterated that, without a prompt signature, the US would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no US or Nato troop presence in Afghanistan," said a White House spokesman.
However, if the US does not strike a deal in Afghanistan after 2014, they have no staging ground to launch drone strikes into Pakistan, or would have to negotiate one with one off the former Soviet republics, giving a wider strategic importance to the clash with Karzai. Karzai's spokesman has said that he does not believe the "zero option" is a real possibility.
And, in fact, in the meantime, what we said we would do, we would help train the Afghan military. It's their responsibility to take over their own security. That's why with 49 of our allies in Afghanistan, we've agreed on a gradual drawdown so we're out of there by the year 20 -- in the year 2014.
But we are leaving. We are leaving in 2014. Period. And in the process, we're going to be saving over the next 10 years another $800 billion. We've been in this war for over a decade. The primary objective is almost completed. Now, all we're doing is putting the Kabul government in a position to be able to maintain their own security.
RYAN: We do agree -- we do agree with the timeline and the transition, but what we -- what any administration will do in 2013 is assess the situation to see how best to complete this timeline. What we do not want to do...
BIDEN: We will leave in 2014.
BIDEN: Forty-nine of our allies -- hear me -- 49 of our allies signed on to this position.
RYAN: And we're reading that they want to...
BIDEN: Forty-nine -- 49 of our allies said "out in 2014." It's the responsibility of the Afghans. We have other responsibilities... (CROSSTALK)
RADDATZ: Do you really think that this timeline...
They won't leave IMO.
There's too much money in Opium there for them to cut and run.
The security agreement spells out terms under which an estimated 10,000 U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan to assist the government in its war against Taliban insurgents. It also involves billions of dollars worth of assistance to the Afghan security forces and Afghanistan's fledgling democratic institutions.