Against the recommendation of elders, Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai said on Sunday that he would not immediately sign a security deal with the US, according to the Associated Press.  The news comes after a six-day showdown between Karzai and the US.

From the Associated Press (via ABC News):

Afghanistan’s president said on Sunday he will not sign a security deal with the United States until next April’s elections, ignoring a recommendation by an assembly of Afghan elders and leaders that he do so by the end of 2013.

Hamid Karzai’s refusal to accept the Loya Jirga’s overwhelming approval of the Bilateral Security Agreement and its request that he sign it in a timely manner puts in doubt the question of whether the U.S. will keep troops in the country after the withdrawal of foreign combat forces in 2014.

Karzai gave the 2,500-member national consultative council a series of conditions, some ill-defined, that he said needed to be met before he signed, including “peace,” the cooperation of the United States on the implementation of the Bilateral Security Agreement and fair elections on April 5.

“We want security, peace and we want a proper election. You have asked me that I should sign it within a month. Do you think that peace will come within a month?” he asked the assembly. He did not elaborate on his conditions for signing but his spokesman Aimal Faizi said: “Not before elections! He was clear enough.”

President Barak Obama’s administration has said it wants a deal signed by the end of the year and warned that planning for a post-2014 military presence may be jeopardized if it is not approved by Karzai.

The US has been planning to maintain a limited military mission in Afghanistan to continue training and assisting Afghan security forces, and to conduct counterterrorism missions when needed (a plan itself that is not without its criticism).  The Obama administration has previously said that it would withdraw US forces unless a security deal was signed.

The AP explains the likely motive for Karzai’s hesitation.

Karzai seems to be concerned about his long-term legacy, that he doesn’t want to be seen as the Afghan leader who agreed to keep foreign troops in his country beyond 2014, when a NATO mandate ends and international military forces depart Afghanistan. His move also could be an attempt to avoid taking personal responsibility for an agreement that some Afghans might see as selling out to foreign interests.

“If I sign it and peace does not come who will be blamed for it by history? If I sign it today and tomorrow we don’t have peace, who would be blamed by history. So that is why I am asking for guarantees,” Karzai told the assembly.

[…] Karzai stunned the U.S. when he urged delegates on Thursday’s opening day to approve the security pact but said he will leave it to his successor to sign it.

It’s unclear where things go from here.

(Featured image credit: YouTube video; report from NBC News)