Monday November 30th, 2015 10:55PM

Obama tells Pentagon to plan for Afghan pullout

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama has ordered the Pentagon to plan for a full American withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year should the Afghan government refuse to sign a security agreement with the U.S, the White House said Tuesday.

However, in a call with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama also said the U.S. could still keep a limited troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014 if the agreement is ultimately signed. He acknowledged that Karzai was unlikely to sign the bilateral security agreement himself, leaving the fate of the continued U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan to the winner of the country's April elections.

"We will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA with Afghanistan later this year," the White House said in a summary of the call between the two leaders. However, the White House added that "the longer we go without a BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition."

Tuesday's call was the first known contact between Obama and Karzai since last June, underscoring the White House's frustration with the Afghan leader's refusal to sign the security agreement. The White House has repeatedly said it would not leave American troops in Afghanistan without the agreement.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Obama's order to the Pentagon "a prudent step" given the likelihood that Karzai will not sign an agreement. However, he said the Pentagon would also continue to make plans for a possible U.S. mission in Afghanistan after this year, which would focus on counterterrorism and training Afghan security forces.

Hagel will discuss the future of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan with NATO leaders during a summit this week in Brussels.

The U.S. currently has about 33,600 troops in Afghanistan, down from a high of 100,000 in 2010. Obama has been weighing options from the Pentagon that would keep as many as 10,000 troops in the country after this year, contingent on the security agreement. However, some White House officials are believed to support keeping a smaller troop presence.

The longer the decision takes, the more expensive and risky the troop drawdown will become. With less time to move troops and equipment, the military will have to fly assets out rather than use cheaper ground transportation.

If the security pact is never signed, the Pentagon's biggest challenge will be closing large military facilities, including the Bagram and Kandahar air bases. Shutting down a massive base typically it takes about 10 months, but military officials said they are prepared to do it in a much shorter - although far more expensive - period if necessary. Military officials said commanders would still like to have about six months to shut the facilities down. If there is no security agreement by late summer, the officials said closing the bases by the end of the year becomes far more difficult.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 11 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 11 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 10 months ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 11 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 10 months ago )
Local/State News
White House offers governors info on refugees in their states after Syrian migrants uproar
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is proposing to offer governors individualized reports about refugees in their states.White House chief of staff Denis McDonough says in letters to all 50 governors t...
9:08PM ( 1 hour ago )
Standoff at Planned Parenthood ends with suspect's arrest; 3 killed, 9 wounded
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A gunman who opened fire inside a Planned Parenthood clinic was arrested Friday after engaging in gun battles with authorities during an hourslong standoff that killed t...
1:13AM ( 2 days ago )
White House undergoes Thanksgiving Day lockdown after man draped in American flag jumps fence
WASHINGTON (AP) — A man draped in an American flag climbed over the fence at the White House on Thursday, prompting a lockdown as the first family celebrated Thanksgiving.The man was immediately appre...
10:11PM ( 4 days ago )
Obama grants reprieve to turkeys 'Honest' and 'Abe' during White House ceremony
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama spared two turkeys named for one of the nation's most admired presidents, continuing a White House tradition that provides a refreshing sense of amusement and...
9:18PM ( 5 days ago )
The Latest: UN Security Council strongly condemns 'horrifying' attack in Mali, urges probe
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The latest on the attack on a hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako. (All times local):___4:55 a.m.The U.N. Security Council is condemning "the horrifying terrorist attack" at the...
10:58PM ( 1 week ago )