The U.S. military has made revisions to plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan that would allow the Obama administration to wait until President Hamid Karzai leaves office before completing a security deal and deciding on a military presence after 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
Karzai has delayed signing a bilateral security agreement that would allow some a small number of troops to stay in the country after NATO combat troops withdraw. The revised military option reflects frustration in Washington about the prospects of getting Karzai to sign the deal, according to the Journal.
"If he's not going to be part of the solution, we have to have a way to get past him," a senior U.S. official told the newspaper. "It's a pragmatic recognition that clearly Karzai may not sign the BSA and that he doesn't represent the voice of the Afghan people."
The military has been pushing to keep up to 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014, but the White House has said that President Obama won't leave any American forces in Afghanistan unless Karzai signs.
According to the Journal, the revised military drawdown schedule is based on a plan the Defense Department presented to the White House in January that would keep 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014 at a limited number of bases.
The new plan would draw down those troops in two years, with the goal of removing all American troops by the end of the Obama administration except for military personnel who would work in a defense office at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the Journal reported.
Senior U.S. officials told the newspaper the revised drawdown plan would allow the military to accommodate a presidential order to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 or an order to pull all of the troops out by year-end.
Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the incoming No. 2 American commander in Afghanistan, said over the weekend that his immediate focus is on supporting upcoming Afghan elections — not on the possibility of U.S. troops remaining after the NATO-led combat mission ends.
Anderson, the new commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, acknowledged at a handover ceremony on Saturday that the uncertainty around the security deal gives him a "little bit of pause" but is ultimately a "longer term issue."
Afghanistan's presidential election is slated for April 5, but with no single candidate expected to get more than 50 percent of the vote, a second round looks likely, meaning a new government is unlikely to take office before August, according to the Journal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.