(NBC News) President Obama is drawing the line with Afghanistan.
Sign an agreement to ensure any troops we leave there are safe, or all of them are coming home by the end of this year.
The U.S. had planned to leave thousands of troops there when the war ends. Now the President is ordering the Pentagon to speed up planning for a full withdrawal by December.
In a phone call, President Obama gives Afghan President Hamid Karzai an ultimatum:
Sign the security agreement… Or all 34,000 U.S. troops leave this year. “I can’t ask young men and women to serve in a country without the protections afforded by a Bilateral Security Agreement,” said Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.
He says the U.S. still wants to leave up to 10,000 troops after this year to help the Afghans keep an eye on the Taliban, and al Qaeda. But the U.S. says that can’t happen until the security agreement – the BSA – is a done deal. “The longer we go without a BSA – and we’ve been making this clear – the more challenging it will be to plan and execute a US mission,” said White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney.
“They may be trying to send president Karzai message – you’re pushing your luck,” said Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings Institution.
Karzai has indicated he may leave the decision up to the next afghan president, due to be elected in April which, for the U.S., may be too late.
The world is watching. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels today. “Probably right at the front end of the agenda will be Afghanistan,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The war is ending, but what is still up in the air – the size of the troop pullout.