US top general seeks Afghan troops deal by October

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — America’s top general says he would like to see a security agreement with Afghanistan signed by October, which would give NATO enough time to prepare for a post-2014 military presence.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says he has not been asked to prepare for a “zero option,” with no American forces in the Afghanistan after 2014.

But Dempsey warns that a failure to sign a security agreement will mean that no American forces will remain in the country after the pullout date.

Talks on a deal have made little headway after President Hamid Karzai suspended negotiations following a disagreement over a Taliban political office in the Gulf state of Qatar.

Dempsey spoke to reporters in Kabul Monday after talks with Karzai and Afghan military leaders.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

The Afghan parliament voted Monday in favor of sacking the interior minister, blaming him for worsening security and violence in the country.

The no-confidence measure in Mushtaba Patang, which passed with a vote of 136-60, is non-binding, and President Hamid Karzai can either accept parliament’s decision or reject it. Lawmakers said the minister was not doing enough to provide security along the Kabul-Kandahar highway, a key route that carries much of the nation’s trade.

Karzai said in a statement that while he respected the parliamentary decision, they needed a vaild legal reason to oust Patang. He said that he would wait for the Supreme Court to decide whether parliament’s reasons for ousting Patang were legal. Until that time, Patang would remain as caretaker minister, the statement said.

For his part, Patang said he will accept “whatever decision the government and judicial system of the country will make.”

He painted the vote an effort by some members of parliament to get rid of him because of economic interests, and because of his investigation into drug smuggling rings. He did not provide details. He added that he had also refused many requests from parliamentarians to appoint people to government positions.

“Whatever decision was taken by parliament it was a political conspiracy, “he said.

The interior minister is in charge of Afghanistan’s nearly 160,000-strong police and security services.

Since June, Afghans have taken the lead for security around the country as NATO accelerates the withdrawal of its forces ahead of the complete pullout by the end of 2014.

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