NATO head: No Afghan deal means no troops past ‘14 _lowres

Associated Press photo by Virginia Mayo -- Flags flutter in the wind in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesda. Frustrated with his Afghan counterpart, U.S. President Barack Obama is ordering the Pentagon to accelerate planning for a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year. But Obama is also holding out hope that Afghanistan's next president may eventually sign a stalled security agreement that could prevent the U.S. from having to take that step.

BRUSSELS — NATO’s secretary general says that if Afghan leaders and the White House can’t agree on a key security pact, the U.S.-led alliance will pull all of its troops and equipment out of Afghanistan by December.

The blunt statement from Anders Fogh Rasmussen Wednesday at the start of a NATO defense ministers meeting ratchets up pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to strike a deal.

On Tuesday, President Obama threatened to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year if the pact isn’t signed.

Without that agreement, Rasmussen says, forces from other NATO countries and partners cannot stay beyond 2014 either. There are roughly 19,000 non-U.S. forces now in Afghanistan.

“Let me stress, this is not our preferred option,” Rasmussen said. “But these are the facts.”