Afghan loya jirga backs Karzai’s security plans

November 19, 2011

A four-day gathering of Afghan leaders ended Saturday with delegates backing President Hamid Karzai’s desire for a long-term security partnership with the United States that would not allow U.S. troops to conduct night raids or search Afghan homes.

The resolution that emerged from the assembly, known as a loya jirga, called for Afghanistan to negotiate a strategic partnership that places strict limits on U.S. troops who might remain in the country after 2014, when Afghan forces are expected to take charge of providing security.

The decision reached by the more than 2,000 delegates is not binding. But it could bolster Karzai’s hand in negotiations with the United States by allowing him to claim to have broader popular support for fashioning a partnership in which concerns about Afghan sovereignty take precedence.

The 76-point resolution also called for the United States to turn over detainees to Afghan control, which Karzai has also emphasized in the past.

The jirga said that it was against a long-term American presence in Afghanistan, and that an agreement should not last longer than 10 years but could be renewed. Any pact with the United States should be ratified by parliament, the resolution said.

The Afghan and U.S. governments have already written several drafts of partnership documents during months of negotiations but have not reached an agreement. In recent weeks, U.S. officials have said that the bargaining is far from over and that no agreement is imminent. U.S. military officials strongly defend the use of Special Operations night raids as a key tactic for killing and capturing insurgents.

The United States wants access to military bases in Afghanistan for the decade after 2014 in order to conduct counter-terrorism operations and train Afghan security forces. Afghan officials want the United States to commit to funding Afghan troops and to control how American soldiers operate in the country.

At the end of the gathering, Karzai told the delegates that he approved of their resolution.

“I noticed that Afghanistan’s jirga put before the international community and the United States the logical conditions based on Afghanistan’s interests and traditions and religion,” he said after arriving by helicopter from his palace across town.

Salahuddin is a special correspondent.

Joshua Partlow is The Post’s bureau chief in Mexico. He has served previously as the bureau chief in Kabul and as a correspondent in Brazil and Iraq.
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