TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Relations between Washington and Kabul took another turn for the worse on Thursday as Afghan President Hamid Karzai criticized a lack of US respect for its sovereignty and White House officials appeared increasingly resigned to gambling on a better rapport with his successor.
The two governments have been at loggerheads for several months over Karzai's refusal to sign an agreement governing a continued American security presence in the country after the bulk of NATO troops pull out later this year.
But growing irritation on both sides boiled over this week after US criticism of an Afghan decision to release 65 suspected Taliban prisoners, and officials in Washington have begun openly speculating on what would happen if Karzai never signs the agreement.
"The longer the BSA goes unsigned by Karzai, it increases likelihood that there will be no troops after 2014 in Afghanistan," said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf in a conference call with reporters.
The threat to pull out entirely has been made before by the US, but the White House has previously insisted that Karzai sign it within weeks.
"Afghanistan is a sovereign country," said Karzai at a conference in Turkey on Thursday. "If the Afghan judicial authorities decide to release a prisoner it is of no concern to the US. I hope that the US will stop harassing Afghanistan's procedures and judicial authority and I hope the US will now begin to respect Afghan sovereignty."
Karzai also insisted he still supports the principle of a bilateral security agreement, which was supported last year by a loya jirga of tribal leaders.
GUARDIAN | ABDUL MANAN