By Mick Krever, CNN
Leading Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday that he would sign an agreement to keep international forces in Afghanistan, and aid dollars flowing, if he were elected to succeed President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai has thus far demurred signing such a deal – a so-called Status of Forces Agreement – to the frustration of the United States and its allies.
U.S. forces are currently scheduled to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
“When we are asking President Karzai to sign it, and when we say that it is in the interest of Afghanistan that that agreement is signed sooner rather than later, that means that we will be ready to sign it when time comes,” he said.
Not only has Karzai refused to sign a deal, he has chosen this moment, the twilight of his presidency, to lash out at his supposed allies.
"They did not work for me, they worked against me," Karzai said in an interview this weekend with the UK’s Sunday Times. "America has left me with a mess."
Abdullah told Amanpour that Afghanistan will need the financial and military support of the international community “for years to come.”
“It’s highly risky what President Karzai is pursuing at the moment,” Abdullah said. “It has creating a shadow over every other thing which is happening in this country, and the people are extremely worried.”
As campaigning kicked off to succeed President Karzai, two of Abdullah’s staffers were killed – “assassinated,” as Abdullah put it – in the Afghan province of Herat.
“The environment is not risk free, but when I look at the enthusiasm of the Afghan people to participate in the elections – that is part of it is encouraging. It is highly encouraging.”