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Karzai Outlines Conditions for US Troops Remaining in Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks as he inaugurates Loya Jirga, grand assembly in Kabul, November 16, 2011.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks as he inaugurates Loya Jirga, grand assembly in Kabul, November 16, 2011.

A traditional gathering of about 2,000 Afghans, called a loya jirga, has convened in the Afghan capital to discuss the agreement which will govern U.S. involvement in Afghanistan after the deadline for the exit of foreign combat troops, at the end of 2014.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai opened the four-day meeting with a speech saying that an agreement with the United States is in Afghanistan’s best interests and that a deal must respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty.

Karzai says Afghanistan is ready to have a strategic partnership with America. He says he will give the United States the military bases, but the United States should not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal matters.

He also called for an end to night raids and for all U.S.-run prisons in the country to be put under control of the justice and interior ministries.

Gran Hewad, a researcher with the Afghan Analysts group here in Kabul, says there are no clear expectations for the four-day meeting.

“The agenda is not clear yet, what the government is saying generally that they will discuss the partnership with the United States and the peace process with Pakistan,” he said.

The meeting is being held amid tight security. Delegates are intended to represent all facets of Afghan life and include tribal elders, and members of civil society. But some government opponents are boycotting the jirga. They say it is illegal and unconstitutional.

"The leader of the opposition party, Dr. Abdullah, Abdullah announced and asked his followers to don’t contribute, to don’t participate in the jirga," Hewad stated. "Even in the parliament, a couple of parliamentary groups and coalitions have rejected to attend the jirga."

The Taliban has threatened to attack the jirga and released what it said were the security arrangements for the meeting on its website. The government dismissed them as false. On Monday a would-be suicide bomber was killed near the venue and two accomplices captured. There are increased checkpoints here in Kabul and many roads near the meeting venue are closed.

The government has said anything agreed at the jirga must be approved by parliament before it becomes policy.