Amid rising tensions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. President Barack Obama is reportedly considering a "zero option" that would pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by 2014.
Citing American and European officials, the New York Times said Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of U.S. forces and removing all troops by the end of next year.
The news comes as Obama has reportedly grown frustrated with Karzai, who pulled out of talks with the U.S. on a long-term security agreement amid news of U.S. peace talks with the Taliban.
A video conference between Obama and Karzai designed to defuse the tensions ended badly, the New York Times cited American and Afghan officials as saying.
The Times said Karzai accused the U.S. of trying to negotiate a separate peace with both the Taliban and their backers in Pakistan, while Obama responded by pointing out the number of American lives that have been lost propping up Karzai's government.
While the option of leaving no troops in Afghanistan after 2014 was previously seen as the worst-case scenario and a useful negotiating tool, the Times said the idea has become an alternative under serious consideration since the video conference.
"There's always been a zero option, but it was not seen as the main option," a senior Western official in Kabul told the Times. "It is now becoming one of them, and if you listen to some people in Washington, it is maybe now being seen as a realistic path."
However, the official told the Times he hoped some in the Karzai government were beginning to understand that the zero option was now a distinct possibility.
The situation is said to be increasingly similar to Iraq, where officials failed to reach an agreement on the U.S. leaving a small residual force, leading to the full withdrawal of U.S. troops.
by RTT Staff Writer
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