Afghanistan's Karzai says he doesn’t trust US, but needs security pact
AFP PhotoAfghan President Hamid Karzai told Nov. 21 a meeting of tribal elders and political leaders they should support a vital security pact with the United States, but acknowledged there was little trust between the two nations.
The Loya Jirga, or grand council, involving about 2,500 Afghans convened a day after Karzai and Washington reached agreement on a pact defining the shape of the U.S. military presence after a 2014 drawdown of multinational NATO force. “My trust with America is not good. I don’t trust them and they don’t trust me,” Karzai said. “During the past 10 years I have fought with them and they have made propaganda against me.” The five-day Loya Jirga will now debate the draft and decide whether U.S. troops will stay or leave Afghan forces to fight the Taliban insurgency alone.
For almost a year, Washington and Kabul have struggled to conclude a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that will help determine how many U.S. soldiers and bases remain in Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops exit by the end of next year. The Afghan tribal elders and political leaders, who have travelled from all over the country to attend the grand assembly, have voiced frustration over the way negotiations between Kabul and Washington have been conducted.
Signature after elections
Karzai said that a possible security deal would only be signed after presidential elections next year. Karzai told delegates that if they approved the BSA and it was passed by Parliament, it would only be signed “when our elections are conducted, correctly and with dignity.”
“They (the U.S.) should cooperate with us in this,” Karzai said, referring to efforts to ensure a clean, fair election. Afghanistan goes to the polls on April 5 to elect a successor to Karzai, who must step down after serving two terms, and a credible election is seen as important to the country’s future stability.
He backed the proposed pact, which will see up to 15,000 foreign troops remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, as a chance to bring stability to the country after more than 30 years of war.
While the pact is widely expected to pass, several thorny issues, including a U.S. request for jurisdiction over its troops, could hold up a decision. Karzai made no reference in his speech to the question of jurisdiction over U.S. troops, which two years ago, prompted the United States to pull most forces out of Iraq. Instead, he focused on a letter sent by U.S. President Barack Obama promising the pact would be in Afghanistan’s best interest.
“We want this pact in order to move out of this unsteady situation. If the foreigners leave unhappy, it will be very dangerous for us,” Karzai told the gathering. The text of the agreement being debated by the assembly was only agreed hours before it opened, following months of difficult negotiations. Afghanistan has a long tradition of Loya Jirgas, grand meetings of elders and other notables from around the country that are convened whenever crisis threatens, or when important affairs of state are to be discussed.