Karzai lists terms for continued US bases
KABUL / ISLAMABAD - Agence France-PressePresident Hamid Karzai yesterday outlined his conditions for long-term U.S. military bases in Afghanistan at a key four-day gathering of elders, saying that Kabul wants national sovereignty “today.”
“We want our national sovereignty and we want it today,” he told the loya jirga, a traditional gathering of influential Afghans in a consultation process whose outcome will be non-binding. The gathering debates Afghanistan’s long-term ties with the U.S. when the bulk of foreign combat troops leave in 2014.
Karzai told day one of the loya jirga that he wanted Afghan-U.S. relations to be those of “two independent countries” and assured neighbors such as China and Russia that a long-term deal would not affect their ties with Afghanistan.
Karzai said the United States must stop night raids and building parallel institutions in Afghanistan as a condition of a strategic partnership agreement between the two nations.
But if it meets conditions such as these, Karzai said Afghanistan was prepared to host U.S. troops in the long-term.
“If they want military bases, we will allow them, it is in our benefit, money will come to us, and our forces will be trained,” he said. He also moved to reassure Afghanistan’s neighbors about the nature of any strategic partnership deal.
“We reassure all the friendly countries that no country and no neighboring country will be interfered with from Afghanistan,” Karzai said.
“Afghanistan sees its national interest in having good relations with neighbors and wants our independence to have good relations with neighbors such as China, Russia and others.” He added: “America may be powerful, America may be richer, America may have more land but we are lions.” The Taliban said those supporting a long-term US presence in Afghanistan at the jirga would be considered “traitors” and “deserving of harsh penalties”.
Meanwhile, key figures, such as Karzai’s main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, and former ally, Soviet-era warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, are boycotting the event as “unconstitutional” amid concerns over how delegates were appointed.
Meanwhile, a major salvo of US missiles yesterday destroyed a Pakistani Taliban base on the Afghan border, killing up to 18 militants including possible al-Qaeda fighters, local officials said.
Five US drones fired up to 10 missiles into a sprawling compound in the Baber Ghar area of South Waziristan, killing 15 to 18 fighters in the deadliest such American strike in three months, the Pakistani officials said. “The target was a base of Pakistan Taliban.,” the official said. An official in Wana, the main town of South Waziristan, confirmed that a base of Pakistan’s umbrella Taliban faction, Tehreek-e-Taliban, was destroyed and said there were reports that “some foreigners” were also killed. Pakistani officials typically use the word “foreigner” to denote Al-Qaeda and Uzbek Islamist militants.