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U.S. dire on full pullout from Afghanistan if deal not signed

| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 8:18 p.m.

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — America's top military officer warned the withdrawal of most U.S. and allied forces from Afghanistan by the end of next year could reverse gains made in the war against the Taliban and further destabilize the region.

But Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States has no plans to reopen negotiations on the hard-won text. Dempsey said he hasn't started planning for a so-called “zero-option,” but he may have to soon if Hamid Karzai doesn't change his mind and sign the deal.

Much is at stake. Afghan security forces are still struggling against a resilient insurgency despite billions of dollars spent on training during nearly 13 years at war. Instability in Afghanistan — the world's largest illicit producer of raw opium — could affect the region as far away as Russia. Such concerns, Dempsey said, are what make Afghanistan important to America and its allies despite waning interest in the conflict at home.

“Were it to become less stable, it would have impact on its neighbors,” Dempsey said at the military base north of the capital. “All of us would be concerned about the possibility of ungoverned space producing safe havens for terrorism, so stability in the region is in our national interest.”

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