Hagel Threatens Complete Withdrawal from Afghanistan
Policy + Politics

Hagel Threatens Complete Withdrawal from Afghanistan

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel upped the anti with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Sunday morning, threatening to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan if a security deal is not agreed to soon. 

Karzai was expected to sign a long-term security deal that would keep U.S. troops and U.S. money in Afghanistan for the next decade after a group of tribal elders approved it last month. But he went back on his pledge with analysts speculating that he’s attempting to delay signing agreement until the Afghan presidential election in April.

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Last week, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said that the so-called zero option - pulling all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 - was on the table if Karzai refused to deal. Speaking on CBS's Face the Nation, Hagel reiterated that threat. 

"If we don't have a bilateral security agreement, which I've noted, that means we can't protect our forces that would be here after 2014, no international partners will come, Afghanistan essentially will be alone. But we have no other options," Hagel said. "Unless we have the security of an agreement to protect our forces…then we'll have no choice. We will not be able to stay."

Hagel made these comments while visiting Afghanistan. He expected to meet with Karzai, but the Afghan president unexpectedly left to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Hagel is the highest-ranking official in the Obama administration to make the threat. Experts said that Karzai is prolonging negotiations to win more concessions from the Americans. Hagel’s threat sends a clear message at a time when taxpayers and politicians are increasingly war-weary and impatient with Karzai’s posturing. 

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“I hope he'll come to the right decision on this. Because we need that bilateral security agreement signed for our own planning, for our own purposes, as well as our international partners,” Hagel said. He then asked, "We should ask that question. Is it worth it or not worth it [to stay in Afghanistan]? It needs to be asked, especially in a representative government, a democracy - those questions must be asked. So it is now up to President Karzai to make a decision.” 

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