- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2013

The U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan is prodding President Hamid Karzai to sign an agreement to allow U.S. troops to remain in the nation after 2014.

Ambassador James B. Cunningham noted the importance of leaving thousands of U.S. forces there to help train Afghans to fight Taliban militants.

“The question of withdrawing all of our forces is not something that we foresee or want to pursue,” he told reporters in Kabul. “So zero is not an option for us.”

Mr. Karzai has delayed signing the agreement, even after tribal leaders endorsed the pact last week. He has demanded new conditions “in addition to an agreement that we have already reached,” Mr. Cunningham said.

PUTIN’S SMIRK

Strobe Talbott sees a crack in Vladimir Putin’s armor after the authoritarian Russian president strong-armed Ukraine into rejecting an agreement with the European Union that would have included a free-trade pact among other benefits for the former Soviet republic.

Mr. Talbott, a deputy secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and now president of the Brookings Institution in Washington, blamed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, a pro-Moscow politician, for unleashing a violent police raid against peaceful pro-EU demonstrators over the weekend.

“Yanukovich’s big ‘nyet’ to EU followed by brutality against protesters could trigger Orange Revolution 2.0, wiping [the] smirk off Putin’s face,” Mr. Talbott said on Twitter.

He was referring to the massive protests in 2004 that led to a pro-Western government in Ukraine.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

Former Polish President Lech Walesa, the former Solidarity union leader who helped defeat Soviet communism. He is the guest of honor at a screening of a film based on his life hosted by Polish Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the Republican People’s Party of Turkey, the main political opposition. He meets with members of Congress, after having dedicated a Washington office Sunday. On Wednesday, he addresses the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Two Croatian members of the European Parliament — Tonino Picula, a former foreign minister and member of the Socialists and Democrats Party; and Davor Stier of the European Peoples Party. They address the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Haji Hossain Fahim, chairman of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries; Saber Fermand, president of the Canada-Afghanistan Business Council; Bashir Keshtiar, president of the Australian-Afghan Business Council; Haji Obaidullah Sader Khail, chairman of the Afghan Business Council-Dubai; Naeem Yassin, president of the Afghanistan Builders Association; and Arash Younosi, chairman of the Balkh Chamber of Commerce and Industries. They attend the ninth annual U.S.-Afghanistan Business Matchmaking Conference.

Wednesday

David Axworthy, a former foreign minister of Canada; Gen. Lamine Cisse, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of Senegal; and David Owen, a former foreign secretary of Britain. They address the Human Rights First Summit at the Newseum.

Friday

Hassanali Mehran, governor of the Central Bank of Iran from 1975 to 1978. He addresses the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com or @EmbassyRow.

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