(Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama has told the Pentagon to prepare for the possibility that the United States will not leave behind any troops in Afghanistan after its troop drawdown at the end of this year, the White House said on Tuesday.
Obama said he had given the order to the Pentagon in a phone call on Tuesday to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement that the United States insists it must have before agreeing to leave a contingent of troops behind.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was carrying the modified U.S. position to Brussels for discussion during a meeting with NATO defense ministers that starts on Wednesday.
“Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014,” the White House said.
Here is the memo from the Sec of Defense:
Statement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Afghanistan
"At President Obama’s direction, and with my strong support, the Department of Defense will move ahead with additional contingency planning to ensure adequate plans are in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014
"This is a prudent step given that President Karzai has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, which would provide DoD personnel with critical protections and authorities after 2014. I appreciate the efforts of General Dunford and our military leaders to provide flexibility to the President as we work to determine the future of our presence in Afghanistan.
"As the United States military continues to move people and equipment out of the Afghan theater, our force posture over the next several months will provide various options for political leaders in the United States and NATO. And during this time DoD will still continue planning for U.S. participation in a NATO-led mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces, as well as a narrowly focused counterterrorism mission.
"The United States will consult closely with NATO Allies and ISAF Partners in the months ahead, and I look forward to discussing our planning with NATO and ISAF defense ministers in Brussels this week. "