[Ed. – That’ll bolster Karzai’s negotiating position inside Afghanistan.]
President Barack Obama ordered the Pentagon to ready a so-called zero-option plan for Afghanistan after an unsuccessful months-long campaign to pressure Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign an agreement that would leave a residual U.S. force there after the end of the year.
Obama delivered the news to Karzai yesterday in a telephone call ahead of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense ministers meeting that begins today in Brussels, where the future of forces in Afghanistan will be a main topic.
The timing of Obama’s move suggests he wants to give NATO members “a precise sense of where we stand,” and to “enlist the allies in a more believable messaging to Karzai, because he obviously doesn’t believe us,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a defense analyst with the Brookings Institution in Washington. The announcement may be “an effort to make President Karzai believe this time we’re really serious about a zero option in a way that until now he’s discounted.” …
Obama told Karzai that “because he has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the BSA, the United States is moving forward with additional contingency planning,” according to a statement released by the White House.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama was “very explicit” about the U.S. stance with Karzai.