PARIS (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized what he said was pressure from the United States to accept a security agreement, accusing Washington of behaving like a colonial power.
Karzai has thrown the pact shaping the U.S. military presence post-2014 into doubt in the past by saying that he would only sign if new conditions were met and then only after elections in April.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, Karzai said the special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins, had effectively told him during a recent visit to Kabul that without a security agreement there would be no peace.
Karzai said that could be interpreted as meaning: “If you don’t sign the agreement, we will provoke fighting in your country, we will cause trouble.”
In the absence of a deal, Washington says it will consider pulling its entire military presence out of Afghanistan, which remains gripped by the Islamist Taliban’s insurgency.
“Even if they are serious, they can’t push us up against the wall,” Karzai said.
“What I’ve been hearing in recent days and heard in the past is classic colonial exploitation,” Karzai added.
“Afghans will not submit, they have already fought colonial masters, they don’t accept it.”
U.S. troops first went into Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States to oust the Taliban government, which provided refuge to Osama Bin Laden. Twelve years later, 47,000 U.S. troops are still there.
The United States has been in discussions with Afghan officials about keeping a residual force of about 8,000 troops after the end of the NATO combat mission next year.
Reporting by Leigh Thomas, Editing by John Irish and Angus MacSwan