The NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has warned that the alliance will be forced to take a decision regarding the total NATO forces pullout from Afghanistan unless a deadlock over the Afghan election ends and the new Afghan president signs the bilateral security agreement with Washington and NATO status of forces agreement.
Rasmussen said the NATO summit slated for September 4-5 in Wales would be very close to a dadline for taking that decision.
“Soon we will have to take tough decisions because if there isn’t a legal basis for our continued presence in Afghanistan, we will have to withdraw everything by the end of this year and to do that we will have to start planning … very soon,” Rasmussen told Reuters.
NATO plans to leave behind a smaller force in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to train and advise Afghan security forces. HOwever, the alliance insists that the new Afghan president needs to sign the security agreements with Washington and NATO allowing foreign forces to stay.
The draft bilateral security agreement between Kabul and Washington was endorsed during the consultative Loya Jirga in November last year. However, president Hamid Karzai refused to sign the deal and set pre-conditions for the signing of the pacts.
Both the presidential contenders, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, have vowed to sign the security agreements once take office as the next president of Afghanistan.
In the meantime, Rasmussen expressed concerns regarding the delays in signing the agreements and indicated that the situation was now becoming critical as further delays have sparked anxiety at NATO headquarters since the delays have sharply reduced the time available for detailed planning of the post-2014 mission.
The remarks by Rasmussen comes as there are concerns that announcement of the Afghan vote audit and final election result could be further delayed due to disputes among the presidential contenders over vote audit and formation of the unity government which was agreed during US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Afghanistan.