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    Kerry: US, Afghanistan Agree on Text for Security Pact

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States and Afghanistan have reached an agreement on the final text of a bilateral security pact that will determine the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai negotiated the agreement with U.S. officials, but a grand council of more than 2,500 Afghan elders, known as a Loya Jirga, must give its approval before the document goes to the Afghanistan parliament for a vote.

    The group can revise or reject any clause of the draft agreement, and a flat-out rejection would most likely prevent the Afghan government from signing it.

    The three-day gathering of Jirga delegates, including tribal, political and intellectual leaders, begins Thursday. Kabul remains on high alert with offices closed and dozens of checkpoints set up along the route leading to the site of the meeting.



    A key sticking point had been whether Washington would agree to offer assurances that U.S. troops will enter Afghan homes only in "exceptional" circumstances to save lives.

    The issue gained attention Tuesday after Afghan presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said the two sides had agreed to allow home raids if President Barack Obama writes a letter acknowledging mistakes by the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

    But Kerry said Mr. Karzai did not ask the U.S. to apologize for civilian casualties.

    The so-called Bilateral Security Agreement is seen as vital to lasting peace in the war-torn nation, where the United Nations said the Taliban insurgency this year reached levels of violence not seen since 2010.

    Also Wednesday, Afghanistan's election commission announced the final list of candidates for next year's presidential poll, which will be the country's first-ever democratic power transfer.

    Mr. Karzai, appointed following the U.S.-led invasion of 2001, must step down after serving two terms.

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