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U.S. withdrawal of Afghanistan signals a threat to the U.S. drone mission

American intelligence agencies are greatly concerned about a withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of the year as a crippling threat to the U.S. if their air bases used for drone strikes against Al Qaeda in Pakistan and for responding to a nuclear crisis in the region are lost, reports The New York Times.

It is no longer a discussion about the size of U.S. troop levels remaining in Afghanistan but the far reaching effects of how troop levels in Afghanistan directly affect long-term American security interests in neighboring Pakistan, according to administration, military and intelligence officials.

Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who declined to enact an agreement last year with the U.S., has American officials viewing it as a growing problem. When Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, was in Afghanistan the week end of December 7, Afghan President Karzai went to Tehran, Iran and made a deal on Sunday Dec. 8 with Iranian President Hassan to a long-term friendship.

Afghanistan agreed on a ‘long-term friendship and cooperation pact with Iran,’ Karzai's spokesman Aimal Faizi said, according to Reuters. ‘The pact will be for long-term political, security, economic and cultural cooperation, regional peace and security.’

The concern has become serious enough that the Obama administration has organized a team of intelligence, military and policy specialists to devise alternatives to mitigate the damage if a final security deal cannot be struck with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.

If Mr. Obama ultimately withdrew all American troops from Afghanistan, the C.I.A.’s drone bases in the country would have to be closed, according to administration officials, because it could no longer be protected. It also presents a problem that there is no way to monitor the mountainous territory in Pakistan where the remnants of Al Qaeda’s central command are hiding.

Response time to a crisis in the region, such as missing nuclear material or weapons in Pakistan and India would not be available to the U.S.

Mr. Obama is expected to say in his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening that by the end of this year the Afghan war will be over at least for Americans who have been there slightly more than 13 years after it began, making it the longest in American history.

‘You hear about the president’s decision of the ‘zero option’ in the context of the future of Afghanistan, but this is really more about Pakistan,’ said one former senior intelligence official who has consulted with the Pentagon and intelligence agencies about the problem. ‘That’s where the biggest problem is.’

Crucial to the surveillance of Bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad was the use of an RQ-170 drone which came out of American facilities over the Afghan border. After that raid the Pakistani officials spoke openly about their fear that unmanned aircraft was also being used to monitor their nuclear arsenal, which is considered to the fastest growing in the world.

Bases in the Persian Gulf are too far for the drones and unlikely to gain agreement with the countries in that region.

Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet Pakistan’s foreign and national security policy adviser, Sartaj Aziz, here on Monday, and counter terrorism operations are to be a major subject of discussion, a senior State Department official said Sunday. Talking with Pakistan about its nuclear program is especially delicate.

To find out more about the U.S. position in Afghanistan, please view the articles listed below in Author's suggestions and the video atop this article to view Sec. of State John Kerry's statement about the U.S. position during the Davos, Switzerland economic meeting this week end. Click on 'subscribe' to receive new releases.

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