Op-Ed: Negotiations on Afghan US security pact still ongoing

Posted Nov 19, 2013 by Ken Hanly
A meeting of Afghan elders, or Loya Jirga, is scheduled to meet on Thursday to consider a bilateral security agreement between the US and Afghanistan that would determine the number and conditions under which US troops remain after 2014,
Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Afghan President Hamid Karzai
U.S. Department of Defense
In his daily briefing White House Press secretary, Jay Carney, said that the US and the Afghan side had reached a "general agreement" last month but "this agreement isn't reached until the Loya Jirga has passed judgment on it". Actually that is not true. The agreement also needs to be passed by the Afghan parliament. It is also misleading in that even the draft to be presented to the Loya Jirga is not finalized. Apparently the negotiations are still ongoing. There are apparently two sticking points.
Karzai has voiced his opposition to granting immunity to US troops from Afghan law. However, he also opposes letting the US unilaterally carry out military operations within the country including searching civilian homes, These raids usually by special forces often result in civilian deaths and are strongly opposed by Karzai.
John Kerry made a phone call to President Karzai requesting that he allow US forces to enter Afghan homes in "exceptional circumstances: "A Dari-language statement from Karzai's office said Kerry asked the president to allow U.S. troops on counter-terrorism missions to conduct operations that might require entering Afghan homes in "exceptional" circumstances. Karzai agreed to include the wording if Kerry defends it at the Loya Jirga debate. Otherwise the Afghan leader told Kerry to wait and negotiate the final agreement with the new government following next year's elections. " Kerry has not indicated he plans to attend the meeting.
US officials claimed on Monday that Karzai had conceded that the US could retain exclusive jurisdiction over US soldiers and contractors after 2014 as part of the deal. Karzai has always said previously that he would leave this up to the Loya Jirga to decide and has at times said he opposed this immunity. In any event the Loya Jirga and parliament will in the end decide not Karzai.
The Loya Jirga itself can revise or reject any clause of the draft agreement. A flat out rejection of the agreement would probably result in the parliament also rejecting the document. The US wants to keep up to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan both to train the Afghans and to continue the fight against Al Qaeda. Of course the part about Al Qaeda is misleading since they will mount operations against any Taliban insurgents. There are very few Al Qaeda left in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of Afghan students in the eastern city of Jalalabad demonstrated against the security pact. The students blocked a main road from the Jalalabad to the capital Kabul where the Loya Jirga is to take place.