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Karzai lobs new curve ball on U.S.-Afghan security agreement

KABUL, Afghanistan — He expressed outrage, sarcasm and black humor. He cast himself as a lonely voice defending his country's pride and sovereignty against American arrogance.

After a frantic week of last-minute negotiations, Afghan President Hamid Karzai delivered a tepid endorsement Thursday of a proposed 10-year security pact with the United States in a rambling speech to an Afghan tribal gathering. But he then surprised attendees by saying Afghanistan might not sign the accord until next spring.

Karzai told the 2,700 Afghan delegates to the assembly, known as a loya jirga, the agreement was vital to Afghanistan's future security. But he complained bitterly about his relationship with the United States and suggested his successor be the one to sign the deal after elections in April.

U.S. officials, who had announced agreement on a draft text just hours before Karzai's speech, must now gauge whether he was grandstanding or angling for more concessions.

The United States expected a much quicker resolution. A letter from President Barack Obama delivered to Karzai just before the speech said he wanted the pact concluded promptly.

Karzai's performance also bewildered Afghans, who have been debating whether to flee with their life savings or to stay once another decade of American military and financial support was guaranteed.

The agreement would create a much smaller U.S. force after combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.

Karzai lobs new curve ball on U.S.-Afghan security agreement 11/21/13 [Last modified: Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:28pm]
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