“Tonight we reached some sort of agreement,” Karzai said through an interpreter. “The United States will no longer conduct operations by themselves. We have been provided a written guarantee of the safety of the Afghan people. And a clear definition of invasion was provided.”
Kerry and Karzai broke an impasse in negotiations during two days of intensive talks in the Afghan capital, as an Oct. 31 deadline approaches for negotiating terms for some U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan after combat forces depart in 2014.
The two welcomed the agreement but said it hinges on the question of legal jurisdiction.
“The one issue that is outstanding is the issue of jurisdiction,” Kerry said at an evening news conference with Karzai. “We need to say that if the issue of jurisdiction cannot be resolved, unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security agreement.”
Karzai’s insistence on greater Afghan control over counterterrorism operations — one of the main sticking points leading up to Saturday’s agreement — had been underscored in recent days by a successful U.S. mission this month to detain a senior Pakistani Taliban leader whose group claimed responsibility for the 2010 bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square.
Latif Mehsud, a senior deputy to Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, was captured Oct. 5, the State Department confirmed Friday. Latif Mehsud was captured while traveling in Afghanistan’s Logar province, Afghan officials said. The operation angered Afghan intelligence and security officials, who said Mehsud had been in their custody when he was forcibly removed by U.S. troops, and it prompted Kerry to travel to Kabul to reassure and lobby Karzai in person.
Kerry said Saturday that he and Karzai had been able to talk through their differences on the issue. Karzai reiterated that the issue was important to Afghans and that the operation went “against Afghanistan’s laws and independence.”
“We should be confident after signing the [agreement] that such incidents will not happen again,” he said.
If a pact is indeed signed, it will come as an enormous relief to many Afghans, including members of the country’s security forces, which are dependent on U.S. funding and supplies.
“Without U.S. help after 2014, there’s no question that the army and police will be in trouble,” said one senior Afghan military official this week.