Karzai Demands US Enter Peace Talks with Taliban
Afghan president denounces US-paid propaganda pushing for implementation of the Bilateral Security Agreement
Afghan president Hamid Karzai said he will not sign the Bilateral Security Agreement unless the United States enters into peace talks with the Taliban.
"In exchange for this agreement, we want peace for the people of Afghanistan. Otherwise, it's better for them to leave and our country will find its own way," Karzai told a Kabul news conference Saturday.
"Starting peace talks is a condition because we want to be confident that after the signing of the security agreement, Afghanistan will not be divided into fiefdoms," he continued.
Karzai's demand for a peace process is the latest delay for the implementation of the BSA, which permits up to 15,000 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan to train Afghan forces and conduct "counter-terror operations," BBC reports.
The agreement received cautious approval from tribal leaders and the nation's elders after a loya jirga meeting in November.
Without the deal, the U.S. must withdraw all troops by the end of 2014.
"Our main condition is the practical start of a peace process, [which] would mean that no foreigners can benefit from the continuation of war."
Mr Karzai added that if he were to sign the deal, he would become responsible if Afghans were killed by US bombs.
He called on the US to be a friend not a rival, but then compared them directly with colonial Britain in the 19th Century - imposing deals on Afghanistan that ultimately led to war, the BBC's David Loyn, in Kabul, reports.
And the Guardian adds:
In his comments to reporters, the Afghan president also denounced the use of advertising – some paid for by the US – that lobbies for signature of the BSA.
"To harm the psyche and soul of the people of Afghanistan, there is serious propaganda going on," said Karzai, referring to the advertisements broadcast for weeks by local media but now taken off the air. "No pressure, no threat, no psychological war can force us to sign the BSA."