Afghan draft deal gives US troops immunity

Draft of post-2014 deal, published by Afghan foreign ministry, says US troops will be immune from Afghan prosecution.

Kabul – The US will have “the exclusive right” to try its soldiers accused of crimes in Afghanistan, and will maintain several bases in the country after the bulk of its forces pull out next year, according to the full text of a draft security agreement published by the Afghan foreign ministry.

The draft form of the Bilateral Security Agreement was published on the Afghan foreign ministry’s website late on Wednesday night, hours ahead of a Loya Jirga scheduled to begin on Thursday.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said soon after its publication that that a final text had been agreed by both nations, but declined to comment on the details of the draft.

Article 13 of the Afghan draft, described as a pre-decisional document, “authorises the United States to hold [civil and criminal] trial in such cases, or take other disciplinary action, as appropriate, in the territory of Afghanistan”.

US forces will not conduct military operations in Afghanistan, “unless mutually agreed”, the text says.

An annex in the agreement also states that nine facilities will continue to be provided by Afghanistan to the US. Among those facilities is the Kandahar Air Force Base, capable of housing more than 200 military aircraft.

The text is expected to be put to the Loya Jirga on Thursday, to be debated by more than 2,500 delegates from the country over three days.

Hot issue

The issue of jurisdiction has been a sticking point in BSA negotiations, with the US refusing to allow Afghanistan to charge and try US troops for alleged crimes committed on Afghan soil.

The subject was also a major issue in Iraq, with Baghdad’s refusal to allow US troops immunity to local prosecution ultimately leading to the withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq in December 2011.

The issue came to the fore after a US judge gave Robert Bales, the US staff sergeant who admitted to the worst case of civilian killings by a US Soldier since the Vietnam War, a life sentence for the murder of 16 Afghan villagers, including nine children.

The trial of the “Kandahar Massacre”, as the March 2012 murders of Panjwai district villagers came to be known, earned the ire of Afghans when it was decided the trial would be held in the United States.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Haji Nazaran, a shopkeeper in the southern province, said it was specifically acts like Bales’ that should keep Afghanistan from allowing US forces to stay in Afghanistan.

“What do we need the Americans for? What have they done so far without killing and bloodshed?”

“We don’t want the military bases. Not for a year or forever. We don’t want the Americans”, Nazaran told Al Jazeera of the possibility of the US retaining its bases.

The text of the BSA must be ratified by the delegates at the Loya Jirga and the parliament before it can be signed by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

Source: Al Jazeera