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Nov 24, 2013 5:52 PM by Jennifer Horbelt

Afghan president delays signing US deal

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai is casting fresh doubt on plans to keep thousands of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan after next year.

He's rejecting the recommendation by an assembly of Afghan dignitaries that he quickly sign a security pact with the United States. Karzai says he won't sign it until after Afghanistan's April elections.

The Obama administration has insisted the deal be finalized by the end of next month, warning that without it, planning for a post-2014 military presence may be jeopardized. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel both asked last week that it be signed by the end of the year.

Without the Bilateral Security Agreement, the Americans would have no legal basis to keep forces in the country for up to a decade to train and mentor Afghan troops. In that case, the U.S. has said it will pull all its forces out of Afghanistan, as it did when Iraq failed to sign a similar agreement.

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