Obama Mulls Pulling All US Troops Out of Afghanistan

Monday, 08 Jul 2013 09:24 PM

By Greg Richter

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President Barack Obama is reportedly considering speeding up the process of getting troops out of Afghanistan, with a "zero option" possible by the end of 2014,  The New York Times reports.

Deteriorating relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai have the White House considering the possibility, The New York Times reports.

Negotiations to leave a small "residual force" behind have begun to unravel, reaching a new low when the United States tried to start peace talks with the Taliban last month in Qatar, The Times says.

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A videoconference was held between Obama and Karzai in an attempt to mend fences, but it didn't go well. Karzai reportedly accused the United States of trying to make a separate peace deal with the Taliban and its Pakistani backers, which would have left Afghanistan exposed.

Obama then responded that American lives have been lost propping up Karzai's government.

Though the idea of leaving no troops behind has previously been discussed, it was seen largely as a negotiating tool. Now, the "zero option" is clearly seen as firm possibility, "and if you listen to some people in Washington, it is maybe now being seen as a realistic path," a senior Western official in Kabul told the Times.

The official added that he hopes the Afghan government now realizes the "zero option" is seriously possible. The Times notes that the U.S. military is so weary of stalled negotiations that it might put up little resistance to calls from Washington to use the "zero option."

There are currently 63,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That number is slated to drop to 34,000 by February 2014, with few left at all by the end of the year. But that might be accelerated under the current circumstances with all troops out by summer.

If the United States ends up removing all troops, Western allies such as Germany and Italy would likely follow suit, with smaller nations having no choice but to go along.

Afghanistan could also expect to see a serious drop in the $8 billion in aid it currently enjoys, The Times said. The money makes up more than half the country's annual budget.

The talks had stalled over Karzai's insistence that the United States name Pakistan the main obstacle to fighting militancy, which could force the United States to attack Taliban areas in Pakistan after 2014. Karzai also wants the United States to specify how many troops would stay after 2014 and to provide financial aid to Afghan military and police for several years.

But when word came out of possible talks with the Taliban, Karzai dropped the demands and said the Taliban would have to negotiate directly with his government. The Taliban has refused for years to do that, saying Karzai and his officials are puppets of the Americans.

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