KABUL, Afghanistan – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in Afghanistan on Saturday for a previously unannounced visit, said he had been assured by Afghanistan’s defense minister that a post-2014 bilateral security agreement would be signed soon.
Hagel, who landed in Afghanistan in secrecy while on a scheduled trip to the Middle East, said the defense minister, Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, told him that the stalemated 10-year agreement would be signed “in a very timely manner.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed last month to the text of the 24-page accord but has since refused to sign it. He has demanded that the U.S. cease attacks that invade Afghan homes and sometimes mistakenly kill civilians.
Karzai’s defiance has frustrated U.S. officials, who have said there can be no continued American troop presence after combat forces withdraw at the end of 2014 unless the pact is signed by the end of this year. The agreement would permit U.S. military advisers and special operations counterterrorism troops beginning in January 2015.
Unlike other U.S. officials who have visited Kabul recently, Hagel did not meet with Karzai.