A diplomatic impasse may result in the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014, U.S. negotiators say.
Negotiations with Afghan officials about the presence of some U.S. troops in the country are stuck on two issues, The New York Times reported Saturday. President Hamid Karzai insists the United States guarantee Afghanistan's security but, at the same time, he refuses to allow U.S. troops to keep searching for Taliban militants.
Rather, he wants the United States to turn over intelligence to Afghan forces, which would then seek out the insurgents. Washington fears an agreement requiring it to guarantee Afghan security could result in U.S. troops being compelled to cross the border into Pakistan, a U.S. ally.
U.S. negotiators say they are preparing to suspend talks and resuming them after Afghanistan elects a new president in April is "frankly, not very likely."
The United States had planned to leave a small force in the country after 2014, but withdrawing its troops at the end of next year would force European forces to pull out as well. That could result in Afghans losing faith in their government, possibly inspiring more Taliban attacks, the Times said.
A Taliban group commander claims militants will take over the country once Western forces leave Afghanistan, Khaama Press reported Friday.
"Our fighters have had huge successes with many attacks," said Qari Nasrullah, a member of the Taliban council network in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province. "We will be victorious."
"We will unite all Afghans in one home as this is their home," he said, noting that a power-sharing agreement was possible. "We do want peace but we do not want others to direct us."
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