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American envoy expects Karzai to miss pact deadline

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 9:06 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The lead American negotiator in talks over a long-term security agreement with Afghanistan has privately warned the Obama administration that its efforts to persuade President Hamid Karzai to sign the document on the U.S. timetable are likely to fail, according to officials.

The assessment, if borne out, would leave the administration with little time to assemble a military coalition to remain in Afghanistan and could raise the chances of a hasty and messy troop withdrawal by the end of the year.

The assessment, transmitted in recent days in a classified cable by U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham, follows the administration's repeated extension of the deadline for an agreement it originally said it expected to complete early last fall. The White House said this week that the document must be signed within “weeks, not months.”

In the cable, Cunningham said he did not think Karzai would agree to sign it before presidential elections scheduled for April.

In an assessment circulated last month, the U.S. intelligence community judged that a total American military withdrawal from Afghanistan would lead to a rapid collapse of central government control to the Taliban and other powerbrokers in wide swaths of the country.

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