Barack Obama made it clear to Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai on Tuesday that unless the two countries could arrive on a "bilateral security agreement," US forces would move forward with plans for a draw down. The departure of American troops will continue throughout 2014 and the White House claims the end goal is to have a near zero troop presence in the country by the end of the year.
Time reports the President made it clear to Karzai that he was serious about the plans for leaving in a recent statement describing a phone call between the two world leaders.
"President Obama told President Karzai that because he has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the [Bilateral Security Agreement], the United States is moving forward with additional contingency planning,"
The promise to leave the country is shaped as more of a threat than anything, considering the Afghanistan government is having issues getting a foothold in the country. The Taliban, the group US forces originally went in to eradicate have managed to survive and thrive in certain parts of the region. It's now up to Hamid Karzai as to whether or not he believes Barack Obama is serious about the plans to leave completely after 2014.
Recent polls have shown that the President is having some credibility issues when it comes to other world leaders. These issues have come mostly in the second part of his administration as the newness of this White House wear off. The President has also come under far in the Middle East for stern talk regarding countries like Syria and Iran, with less forceful follow ups.
While some believe President Obama will back down from the plans for withdrawal if the United States and Afghanistan can move towards and agreement, without having one in place, the administration is certainly acting as though the exit is imminent. The Guardian reports that defense secretary Chuck Hagel is planning to look at various withdrawal options over the next few months.
The Guardian added the phone call to Karzai was precipitated by the need for the US to make its plan clear to NATO allies. The defense secretary and the Obama administration want to make sure their allies are not confused or left in the lurch when the country comes to a final decision in regards to Afghanistan. All of this preparation seems to indicate that Barack Obama is coming to grips with a complete and total draw-down in a country the military has had a presence for over a decade.