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Karzai Hints at Conditional Immunity for US Personnel

US soldiers stand guard in Qalat, Zabul province, Afghanistan, November 28, 2012.
As international forces prepare to leave Afghanistan, Washington and Kabul have been working towards a security agreement that would allow some U.S. personnel to stay on in Afghanistan. Now, one of the sticking points in that agreement appears to have been resolved.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he is willing to grant legal immunity for U.S. personnel staying behind in Afghanistan after 2014 - if the United States respects Afghan laws, sovereignty, life and property, trains and equips Afghan security forces and cedes total control of Afghan airspace to the Afghan government.

"Within those conditions, and once those conditions are fulfilled by the U.S. with us, Afghanistan is willing to consider immunity for them and I, as president of Afghanistan, am willing to go to the Afghan people and put that case forward and argue for it."

The question of legal jurisdiction has been a sensitive one. Washington has insisted that any crimes committed by Americans should be tried in the United States.

Failure to strike a similar deal on immunity for U.S. troops in Iraq essentially ended American military presence in that country.

But while resolving this immunity issue is a step forward, Afghan political and security analyst Idres Rahmani says there are other, more contentious issues that still need to be settled.

One of those is the use of Afghan airspace. Currently the CIA-led drone program targeting terrorists on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is staged from bases in Afghanistan. Rahmani says another is the use of U.S. special forces in secret operations.

"Now, that is one point that President Karzai is not willing to accept, at least so far he has said ‘let's stop that one.’"

Rahmani said another issue likely to come up is how U.S. forces will protect the bases they live in, and what will be the role of the Afghan state if those bases come under attack.

The U.S.-Afghan talks on the post-2014 security pact are expected to continue for months.
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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.