By delegating talks on US-Afghan security pact to grand assembly, Karzai has made a clever bid to dodge responsibility.
Afghanistan’s presidential spokesman has said the only deadline for a security pact with the United States is the one set by the country’s president, rebuffing US demands that it be signed by the end of the year.
Aimal Faizi’s comments came on Friday as the loya jirga, or consultative council, bringing together tribal chieftains, community elders and politicians entered a second day of talks on a bilateral security agreement.
The White House had on Thursday urged that the deal, which would keep thousands of US troops there after 2014, be signed by year’s end.
The agreement has been touted as vital to the country’s future after 2014, when the bulk of NATO’s 75,000 troops will pull out as the Taliban insurgency has this year reached levels of violence not seen since 2010, according to the UN.
Faizi said President Hamid Karzai’s desire to sign the agreement after next spring’s presidential elections was the only deadline recognised by Afghanistan.
Karzai urged tribal elders on Thursday to approve the pact, but said he preferred his successor sign it next year.
The consultative council, with 2,500 members, is holding a four-day meeting on whether to endorse the deal.
Chuck Hagel, the US defence secretary, said he could not recommend that President Barack Obama continue planning for a post-2014 force in Afghanistan unless Afghan leaders promptly signed the agreement.
Hagel said that without an agreement he would have no clear understanding of what the Afghan people want, what an acceptable role for US forces will be or how to carry out that mission.
‘Look to the future’
Reactions among Afghanis were mixed, ranging from concerns and opposition to consent and support.
In a gathering of several hundred people in one of Kabul’s main mosques the prayer leader urged delegates debating the BSA to avoid hasty decisions.
“We should not get emotional, we should discuss it with logic. There should be benefit in it for our nation, there should a guarantee for a good future in it for us,” he said.
Karzai himself has urged delegates to consider Afghanistan’s “future prosperity” as they made their decision, saying the deal gave the country a chance to move on after more than 30 years of war.
“In the past we have had such jirgas and agreements, but they have had no positive effects on people’s lives,” Kabul resident Abdul Rahim said.
“My concern is about Iran and Pakistan, they are not happy and as long as the US is here, they will not let us live in peace.”
Karzai said if signed, the deal would see 10,000 to 15,000 foreign troops remain in Afghanistan after NATO pulls out the bulk of its forces by the end of 2014.