Obama calls Karzai, to make troop decision 'in coming days'

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE - US President Barack Obama called Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday and will make a decision about American troops in the country post-2014 "in the coming days," a senior administration official said.

Following a surprise visit during which the two leaders did not meet despite an offer from the US president, Obama told his counterpart over the phone aboard Air Force One that he would be in touch "before he publicly announces or articulates his troop decision," the official said.

That decision is expected to take place "in the coming days," the official added.

Earlier, on a four-hour visit to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, Obama renewed his commitment to a limited presence in Afghanistan for US and NATO troops after the withdrawal of combat forces at the end of the year.

Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement (BSA) mandating the mission, but US officials believe the two candidates in a June runoff election to become the next president will do so.

US officials said Obama offered to see the Afghan leader at the sprawling Bagram base, but Karzai declined.

But on his flight out, Obama called Karzai and they spoke for 15-20 minutes, the senior administration official said.

Obama "said that he wants to conclude the BSA with Karzai's successor. And he agreed to stay in touch with Karzai as the US makes determinations about its post-2014 troop presence," the official said.