NATO officials warned Afghan President Hamid Karzai Monday that he must sign a US troop status accord or put at risk future military and development aid for his country.
While planning continues for a post-2014 training and advisory mission after NATO ends combat operations, time is pressing and political and military practicalities mean the agreement must be signed soon, a senior NATO official said.
If there is no Afghan-US accord, there is "no post-2014 mission" and likely all the funding and other commitments that go with it, the official told a briefing ahead of a two-day NATO foreign ministers meeting beginning Tuesday.
Current NATO aid for Afghan armed forces runs at $4.1 billion (3 billion euros) a year, of which Kabul would only be able to raise $500 million, said the official who asked not to be named.
The handling and "appropriate oversight" of aid is a key issue post-2014, given concerns over corruption, and the official said donors would be worried if there was no US and alliance presence to enure it was spent as intended.
Without an agreement, funding "in theory could continue to be forthcoming...but in practice there must be a question whether donors would have the confidence to contribute," said the official.
As for non-military development aid totalling some $4.0 billion a year, the official said this was "different but again donors' confidence" could be put in doubt without an accord.
Karzai last week refused to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), even though a Loya Jirga assembly of tribal leaders that he had convened voted for him to do so.
The president, who stands down ahead of elections in April, on Sunday accused Washington of halting essential supplies to some army and police units in an effort to force him to sign.
NATO officials said they hoped Karzai would come on board, with the BSA essential for laying down the legal framework for the post-2014 NATO troop presence and role.
A similar BSA deal with Iraq collapsed in 2011 leading to a complete US troop pull-out and an upsurge in sectarian violence.
About 75,000 NATO combat troops are still deployed in Afghanistan, the majority of them American, and are being steadily drawn down as the alliance prepares to end its longest and biggest ever military operation next year.
Under the training and advisory mission, up to 12,000 troops, expected to be mostly American, would be based in Afghanistan.