Afghans protest against long-term US pact

More than 1,000 students demonstrate against decision to back agreement that would allow US troops to remain after 2014.

    The protesters blocked the road to the capital Kabul as they shouted 'Death to America! Death to Karzai!' [AFP]

    Hundreds of Afghan students have blocked a main highway in the eastern city of Jalalabad, protesting against any agreement that would allow US troops to remain in the country after a planned transfer of authority in 2014.

    More than 1,000 students took part in Sunday's demonstration, which was staged after an assembly of more than 2,000 tribal elders and dignitaries - known as a loya jirga - endorsed the agreement.

    But the assembly backed a series of conditions proposed by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, including the end of night raids by international troops.

    They also endorsed a complete Afghan control over detainees during a conference that ended on Saturday.

    The protesters in Jalalabad blocked the road to the capital Kabul as they shouted "Death to America! Death to Karzai!".

    They said they would not accept any partnership with the US, whose troops - along with those of NATO - have been battling the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan since 2001.

    Taliban resistance

    Both the resolution and the protests reflect the tension in Afghanistan between a desire for real sovereignty and the need to bolster the relatively weak government against the still-strong Taliban resistance.

    Afghan council endorsed the plan for an agreement on a long-term American military presence [Al Jazeera]

    The idea of the proposed security agreement is to keep a US military presence in Afghanistan past 2014, when most international forces will have left.

    Afghan and US officials envision a force of several thousand US troops, who would train Afghan forces and help with counterterrorism operations.

    The pact would outline the legal status of that force in Afghanistan, as well as the rules under which it would operate and the sites where it would be based.

    The jirga's resolution carries no legal weight, but could bolster Karzai's negotiating position with the US during difficult talks under way to craft what Washington is calling a Strategic Partnership Document.

    For its part, the Taliban condemned the Loya Jirga (grand assembly), saying that the elders and dignitaries were puppets of the Afghan government and therefore also puppets of NATO and US forces it sees as occupiers.

    "They are acting like servants of the invaders of our country by issuing this resolution," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement. He repeated the Taliban position that the only acceptable solution is for international forces to leave the country.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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