NEW YORK - The United States is considering a quick ‘zero option’ withdrawal from Afghanistan that would leave no American forces in that war-torn country after 2014 amid tensions in the relations between President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, a leading American newspaper reported Tuesday.

A videoconference was organised on June 27 to get the parties’ positions closer on the matter of Taliban contacts and troop withdrawals, but the talks ended in a bad way, the New York Times reported, citing to American and European sources.

US officials did not deny a report that Obama has become increasingly frustrated by his dealings with Karzai. Their relationship fell to new depths after last month’s US move to open peace talks with the Taliban, which led Karzai to suspend talks on a security pact between the two allies.

“There’s always been a zero option, but it was not seen as the main option,” the Times quoted a senior Western official in Kabul as saying. “It is now becoming one of them, and if you listen to some people in Washington, it is maybe now being seen as a realistic path.” Obama is set to end US military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but the United States has been talking with officials in Afghanistan about keeping a small residual force there of perhaps 8,000 troops after next year.

The Times reported that Karzai accused the United States of trying to forge a separate peace with the Taliban and its Pakistani supporters in an arrangement that would expose Karzai’s government to its enemies.

Since the video conference, a full military pullout from Afghanistan like the one from Iraq has been transformed from a ‘worst-case scenario’ to an option ‘under serious consideration in Washington and Kabul’, the Times reported.

Asked about the Times report, a senior Obama administration official said: “All options remain on the table but a decision is far from made.” The officials said no decisions have been made on the pace and scale of the withdrawal.

The United States also had considered keeping a small force in Iraq after the broad troop withdrawal from that country, but talks with Iraqi leaders failed to yield such a deal. The number of US troops in Afghanistan — now around 63,000 — already is set to decline to 34,000 by next February, the Times noted. The White House has said the great majority of American forces would be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. US troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001. The United States invaded Afghanistan to topple the country’s Taliban rulers who had harboured the Al-Qaeda network responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States weeks earlier.

Still it remains unclear whether the US generals would support the idea of withdrawing ahead of the schedule, taking into consideration heavy logistics and security matters.