Sen. John McCain addresses a press conference Thursday at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. (Massoud Hossaini / AP)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — Arizona Republican John McCain and several other U.S. senators said Thursday they’ve warned the Afghan president that a failure to sign a key Afghan-U.S. security deal would pose a threat to the country and the region.
Hamid Karzai has delayed signing the accord with the United States, which would for allow American troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond the exit date for the NATO mission at the end of this year.
McCain said after a meeting Thursday with Karzai in Kabul that he’s “confident the differences have been narrowed to the point that we can resolve them” in a few days or weeks.
Republicans John Barrasso of Wyoming and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also met with Karzai.
Without a signed deal, all U.S. and NATO forces would have to withdraw from Afghanistan.
McCain told reporters after the meeting that he’d warned Karzai that failure to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement could see Afghanistan repeat the experience of Iraq.
“We don’t want to see what happened in Iraq, where we won the war but lost the peace,” McCain said.
The U.S. had wanted the deal to be signed by Dec. 31 because it needs time to prepare to keep thousands of U.S. troops in the country for up to a decade. NATO allies also have said they won’t stay if the Americans pull out.
The agreement aims to help train and develop the Afghan National Security Forces, and allow for a smaller counterterrorism force to pursue al-Qaida and other groups.
Graham said the senators had also warned Karzai that the planned release of 88 detainees from a prison north of Kabul “would be a major step backwards and an unbelievably negative impact” on U.S.-Afghan relations. “These people have blood on their hands,” Graham said. “If the release goes ahead it will cause irreparable damage to our relationship.”
An Afghan panel this week ordered the release of 650 detainees from the Parwan Detention Facility. The U.S. says that there is “ample evidence” to suspect 88 of those detainees in the death or wounding of 60 coalition forces and 57 Afghan forces. The U.S. wants these 88 to face trial in Afghanistan.
The U.S. turned over control of the Parwan facility, located near the U.S.-run Bagram military base north of Kabul, to Afghan authorities last March.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, an official in the western city of Herat was shot dead Thursday by two attackers who later escaped, police said.
Raouf Ahmadi, chief police spokesman for the provincial police, says gunmen mounted on the back of a motorbike shot Yalda Waziri twice in the head as she was walking near her father’s house. Police are investigating.
In a separate attack in eastern Afghanistan, a motorcycle packed with explosives blew up, killing five civilians and wounding 17 others in Baraki Rajan, a town in Logar province, according to the governor’s spokesman Din Mohammad Darwesh.