Afghanistan national assembly backs pact with US

Hamid Karzai
Kabul, Nov 19: An overwhelming majority of delegates at a traditional national assembly today backed calls from Afghanistan's president for a long-term security pact with the US on some conditions, including an end to unpopular night raids by military forces searching for insurgents.

By midday, more than two-thirds of the delegates attending the meeting had expressed support for President Hamid Karzai's call for a security pact that will govern the presence of US troops after 2014, when most international forces are to have left or moved into support roles.

More than 2,000 delegates attended the four-day assembly, known as a Loya Jirga, and were divided into 40 committees to discuss negotiations that are currently under way. More than 30 committee heads had endorsed Karzai's call for an agreement by noon. Karzai was expected to address the meeting at the end of the day.

The jirga's findings are not binding, but they are likely to bolster Karzai's negotiating position with the United States during talks for a written US-Afghan agreement, which the US calls a Strategic Partnership Document.

Karzai does not need the jirga's permission to broker a pact, but he wants its approval to strengthen his position at the talks. Both sides visualise a force of several thousand, which would train Afghan forces and help with counter-terrorism operations. But the legal status of that force, how it would operate, where it would be based, and what it could or could not do has held up the talks.


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