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U.S. Pressing Kabul On Security Pact

The United States says it is pressing Afghanistan to sign a security agreement to allow U.S. troops to remain in that country.

The United States wants to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the pullout of most foreign forces at the end of this year but has warned it could pull out all of its troops unless the pact is signed soon.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declined to sign the security agreement so far.

On February 12, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Washington would not renegotiate the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), as the pact is formally called.

"Planning has to place around the contingencies that exist -- with either a signed BSA or a BSA that is not signed. And as time progresses into this year, it becomes more difficult to plan for a post-2014 troop presence," Carney told reporters at a briefing.

Carney said the United States cannot make plans for troops to stay in Afghanistan without the security deal.

Carney's comment come a day after National Intelligence Director James Clapper told a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing he did not believe Karzai would sign it and said Washington should simply wait until a new president is chosen in Afghanistan's April election.

Clapper's view was echoed earlier this month by NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Also on February 11, Clapper discussed the state of Afghan forces.

Clapper said the country's army has improved but suffers from "extensive desertion problems."

About 30,000 Afghans deserted last year out of an army of 185,000, the intelligence chief said.

Clapper said Afghan forces are capable of beating the Taliban on the battlefield but have difficulties holding territory cleared of Taliban militants.

The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, told the same hearing that Afghan troops have made "modest progress" but still need international assistance with logistics, air transport, and intelligence.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters