Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga to decide on US troops deal

President Karzai said it was beyond his “jurisdiction” to decide on the issue and that he would present the deal before Loya Jirga.

Zee Media Bureau

Kabul: A deal signed by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai that would allow the US troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014, will have to get the approval of Loya Jirga, a gathering of influential political and tribal factions first.

One of the sticking points that may see the deal collapse involves the immunity of US troops. While the US wants its soldiers to be immune to Afghan laws, the country’s Loya Jirga will expect the US troops to fall under local prosecution procedures.

Speaking on the issue, President Karzai said it was beyond his “jurisdiction” to decide on the issue and that he would present the deal before Loya Jirga, which will then pass it to Afghan Parliament for approval.

Kerry responded that any decision made by the Loya Jirga and parliament would be respected, but he added that if the jurisdiction issue was not resolved there would be no agreement.

According to the deal signed, over 5000 Nato troops would remain in Afghanistan after 2014 to train and assist the Aghan security forces and launch anti-terror raids.

"We will leave this to the representatives of Afghanistan who will come to the Loya Jirga, and then take it to the Afghan parliament, and the Afghan people can decide on this," he said.

U.S. officials traveling with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the deal negotiated with Karzai meets all American conditions, including on the jurisdiction issue, and that all that remains is for Karzai to win political approval for it.

During the talks, Kerry made frequent phone calls back to Washington, speaking with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and national security adviser Susan Rice multiple times, the officials said.

The American contingent was hopeful that a national consultative assembly of tribal elders, or Loya Jirga, and the Afghan parliament would approve the agreement, the officials said.

In Iraq, a similar deal fell apart after U.S. officials were unable to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on the same issue that would have allowed a small training and counterterrorism force to remain there. The United States completely pulled out of Iraq after the deal collapsed.

The jurisdiction issue came to the fore after an American soldier, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, killed 16 people in two villages in southern Afghanistan last year. He was convicted in August by a military court and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of release.

With Agency Inputs