Frustrated by Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign a bilateral security agreement, the US on Tuesday expressed the hope India could use its influence over him to make him change his mind.
The agreement would keep US and international troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to prevent it from sliding back to its strife torn days leading up to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Karzai has refused to sign the agreement, frustrating the US. Lawmakers at a congressional hearing on Tuesday accused him of “insulting” US sacrifices by not signing the pact.
But, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins said at the same hearing, India could help turn him around.
“His upcoming visit to India could, I think, be quite influential, because he highly respects and has good relations with the Indian government,” said Dobbins.
Karzai visits India later this week, his third in a year.
The US has been pressing India privately to persuade Karzai to sign the agreement. New Delhi wants US presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, but has publicly not taken sides.
Afghan ambassador to India Shaida Abdali told reporters in New Delhi on Monday Karzai will be discussing the bilateral security agreement with Indian leaders.
Karzai has refused to sign the agreement demanding, one, the US should, through Pakistan, persuade the Taliban to start direct peace talks with his government.
And, two, US and international troops stationed in Afghanistan under the agreement will not allowed to enter Afghan homes, not even when accompanied by local officials.
Dobbins called the demands “bit of an overstretch”, which, he added, Karzai must know certainly, “were beyond what we are likely to accommodate”.
Robert Menendez, the Democrat heading the Senate foreign affairs committee, could barely conceal his annoyance and lashed out at the Afghan president.
“This brinksmanship is unwarranted and, frankly, insulting to the sacrifices made by the United States military and tax-payers and it is not in Afghanistan’s best interest.”
Another senator called Karzai “irresponsible” and “irrational”.
What has irritated them more lately is the agreement Karzai signed with Iran, which remains the only country in the region opposed to US presence in Afghanistan.