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NATO says Karzai failure to sign pact would end Afghan mission

AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOTS Afghan schoolchildren take lessons in an open classroom at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Nangarhar province on December 1, 2013. Afghanistan has had only rare moments of peace over the past 30 years, its education system being undermined by the Soviet invasion of 1979, a civil war in the 1990s and five years of Taliban rule. AFP PHOTO/Noorullah ShirzadaNoorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images

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By Reuters
Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, 7:57 p.m.

BRUSSELS — NATO would have to pull all of its troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 if Afghan President Hamid Karzai does not sign a security pact with the United States, alliance chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday.

An assembly of Afghan elders, the loya jirga, last month endorsed the security pact intended to shape the U.S. military presence in the country beyond 2014. Karzai said he might not sign it until after elections in April.

The NATO-led force has 80,000 troops in Afghanistan, the majority American. NATO is winding down combat operations, handing responsibility for fighting the Taliban to the Afghans before most foreign combat forces pull out by the end of 2014.

NATO plans to leave a training mission, expected to number 8,000 to 12,000 soldiers, in Afghanistan after 2014.

The United States has warned it could withdraw all of its forces by the end of next year, the so-called “zero option,” if Karzai does not sign the pact.

Without the U.S.-Afghan accord, NATO will not be able to finalize its agreement with the Afghan government setting the terms for troops from other NATO and partner nations to remain in Afghanistan after 2014, Rasmussen said.

He voiced hope Karzai would follow the advice of the loya jirga and sign.

The agreement that NATO needs is modeled on the proposed U.S. pact.

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