US rules out apology to Afghans as deal in lim
KABUL / WASHINGTON
An Afghan policeman looks on as he stands guard with others near the premises where the forthcoming Loya Jirga will be held in Kabul. AFP photoThe United States has ruled out apologizing to Afghanistan for “mistakes” made during the 12-year war and denied claims in Kabul that such a mea culpa was being drafted as the two sides rushed to finalize the wording of the security agreement.
The stern comments in Washington came after Afghan leader Hamid Karzai’s spokesman said President Barack Obama planned to write a letter acknowledging that American military errors had caused civilian casualties.
“There is not a need for the United States to apologize to Afghanistan. Quite the contrary,” U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice told CNN on Nov. 19. The State Department also expressed caution on a long-sought bilateral security agreement (BSA), after an official in Kabul said the two sides had reached agreement on key points of the agreement.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a frequent critic of Obama’s foreign policy, said: “I’m stunned.
Apologize for what?” “Maybe we should get the Afghan president to apologize to the American soldiers for all the hardship he’s created for them,” Graham told Reuters. “And maybe President Karzai should apologize to the Afghan people for poor leadership and corruption.”
Aimal Faizi, Karzai’s spokesman, said Obama would write to his boss acknowledging U.S. “mistakes in the war on terror” and the suffering of the Afghan people due to American military operations, as part of the BSA. But Rice said “no such letter has been drafted or delivered. That is not on the table.” U.S. officials later said the request for a letter had come from Karzai himself during a phone call with Secretary of State John Kerry on Nov. 19.
The security agreement could lead to a small group of U.S. troops staying behind after the withdrawal of combat troops in 2014 to train Afghan forces and to mount anti-terror missions. Officials in Washington said there was still some way to go before reaching a final agreement on the pact, to be put to an Afghan Grand Assembly of tribal chieftains and politicians, known as a “loya jirga” for approval.
Faizi said Nov. 19 that a major hurdle in negotiations toward an agreement, relating to the issue of whether U.S. troops staying on in Afghanistan would be allowed to search the homes of Afghan citizens, had been overcome. Faizi said the deal would allow U.S. troops to enter Afghan homes once NATO forces withdraw in 2014 but only in “extraordinary circumstances” where there was an urgent risk to life.
He said both sides had now agreed to the clause on house searches, apparently ending an impasse which had threatened to scupper the agreement. Faizi said Karzai and Kerry spoke by phone during final negotiations for the security agreement which will shape Washington’s future military presence in the war-scarred nation.
However officials in Washington said there was still some way to go before reaching a final agreement. “We’re not there yet. There are still some final issues we are working through,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Even if a final agreement is reached, Afghanistan has insisted that the BSA must be approved by a mass gathering of tribal chieftains and politicians. The four-day grand assembly, known as a “loya jirga” in Pashto, is set to begin today in Kabul. The BSA will determine how many U.S. soldiers stay in Afghanistan when most of NATO’s troops deployed in the country since 2001, currently numbering 75,000, leave at the end of 2014.