‘Not necessary that President Hamid Karzai alone can sign’

NATO’s chief says any Afghan government representative, not only President Hamid Karzai, could sign a security pact with the United States so that thousands of coalition troops could stay in Afghanistan after 2014.

Mr. Karzai has not signed the bilateral security agreement with the United States that would allow NATO to follow suit. His refusal has loomed large over a two-day meeting of alliance Foreign Ministers ending on Wednesday.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters after a meeting with Afghan envoys that “everyone who is authorised to represent respective governments would be able to sign such an agreement.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested on Tuesday that Mr. Karzai’s “Minister of Defence can sign it, the government can sign it. Somebody can accept responsibility for this.” — AP

Shipments suspended

AFP reports from Washington:

The U.S. military on Tuesday of equipment out of Afghanistan through Pakistan, citing protests that posed a threat to the safety of truck drivers, officials said.

The move came after club-wielding activists in northwest Pakistan forcibly searched trucks for NATO supplies in protest over U.S. drone strikes in the tribal belt.

“We have voluntarily halted U.S. shipments of retrograde cargo through the Pakistan Ground Line of Communication (GLOCC) from Torkham Gate through Karachi,” said Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright in a statement.

He was referring to the main overland route used by the Americans and NATO to withdraw military hardware from Afghanistan, as part of a troop pullout set to wrap up by the end of 2014.

Trucks have been told to wait in holding areas in Afghanistan, officials said.

“We anticipate that we will be able to resume our shipments through this route in the near future,”

Mr. Wright said. A defence official said Washington believed the Islamabad government fully supported the use of the route and that it would soon restore security to the area.

  • Minister of Defence can sign it, government can sign it: Kerry

  • Refusal to sign pact looms large at meeting of alliance Foreign Ministers