NEWPORT, Wales (AP) — Time is short for Afghan leaders to resolve their presidential election and sign a security agreement so allied troops can remain in the country after the end of the year, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned Thursday.
Speaking on the opening day of the NATO summit, Rasmussen said that allied nations stand ready to commit to assisting and funding Afghanistan, but final decisions can’t be made until the political stalemate is over.
The April 6 voting to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai resulted in a runoff between former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
Both candidates pulled their observers out of a ballot audit meant to determine the winner, and the final results of the audit are expected sometime next week. Until a president is elected, the U.S. and other countries do not have a security agreement finalized to protect foreign troops in Afghanistan after combat ends Dec. 31.
Without a signature on the security agreement, Rasmussen said, “there can be no mission. Although our military commanders have shown great flexibility in their planning, time is short. The sooner the legal framework is in place, the better.”
Rasmussen spoke at the end of a summit session on Afghanistan.
Because the presidential election is not final, the Afghan defense minister, Gen. Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, represented his country at the summit. Mohammadi reassured Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a meeting Thursday that both presidential candidates continue to support the security agreement. Outgoing President Hamid Karzai and the two candidates did not attend the NATO meetings.
The two candidates sent a message to NATO, Rasmussen said, indicating “that they will do all they can to reach a political agreement.”