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Negotiations for after U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan at standstill

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By The Los Angeles Times
Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, 8:03 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Closed-door negotiations to determine the American military mission in Afghanistan after 2014 have stalled over American demands to conduct lethal counter-terrorism operations and Afghan insistence that Washington guarantee support in event of cross-border attacks.

President Hamid Karzai is balking at Obama administration demands that U.S. special operations troops and the CIA be allowed to capture or kill suspected terrorists once most U.S. troops close out America's longest war at the end of next year, according to officials familiar with the negotiations.

The U.S. team, in turn, is refusing to include written promises to come to Afghanistan's aid if it is attacked by militants from neighboring Pakistan or elsewhere after the withdrawal. A formal U.S. defense commitment could require Congress to vote on the agreement, a course the White House is determined to avoid, given the bitter partisan climate in Washington.

With both sides at odds after months of haggling, Obama administration officials are increasingly skeptical they can complete a deal this month, as the White House had wanted.

Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi told reporters last week in Kabul, the Afghan capital, that the disputes over independent U.S. operations and security guarantees have become potential “deal breakers.”

Officials said President Obama hopes to use his State of the Union speech next year to announce how many U.S. troops will stay behind and for what mission. Without a signed security pact, the United States and its allies will maintain little, if any, military presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

The Pentagon's plans to train Afghan soldiers and police to withstand the still potent Taliban-led insurgency may be abandoned or downsized, said the officials, who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks.

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