WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama has told the Pentagon to prepare for the possibility that the United States will not leave behind any troops in Afghanistan after its troop drawdown at the end of this year, the White House said on Tuesday.
Obama conveyed the message in a phone call to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who has been balking at signing a bilateral security agreement that the United States insists it must have before agreeing to leave a contingent of troops behind for counter-terrorism operations and training.
"Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014," the White House said.
The statement came as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel flew to Brussels for a NATO defense ministers meeting at which Afghanistan is to be discussed. (Reporting By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Editing by Susan Heavey)
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