Karzai punts on US 'security agreement'

After four days of deliberations in Kabul, a Loya Jirga of some 2,500 elders and tribal leaders on Nov. 24 announced its endorsement of the Bliateral Security Agreement that will enable thousands of US troops to remain in Afghanistan after the supposed "withdrawal" of NATO forces next year. A similar deal between the US and Iraq collapsed in 2011 over the issue of whether Pentagon troops would have to answer to local courts. A draft text released by Kabul last week appeared to show that Afghan President Karzai had yielded to a US demand for exemption of its troops from Afghan jurisdiction. Nonetheless, Karzai now says he will reject the Loya Jirga's recommendation that he sign the agreement, citing continued civilian casualties at the hands of US forces.

Karzai particularly mentioned a night raid that killed twin brothers in Nangarhar province last week and sparked protests by villagers. The US said it was a joint Afghan-led raid that killed two armed insurgents after they opened fire, but conceded that a coalition adviser was among those who killed the two men. Afghan officials said that it was a unilateral US Special Forces raid, that the only Afghans present were US employees or mercenaries, and that the victims were innocent villagers. "On the very day that the jirga was opened, the Americans raided a house in Bati Kot and killed our compatriots," Karzai said Nov. 24. (Actually the raid took place two days before the Jirga opened Nov. 20.) "Does this mean that even after we sign this agreement the Americans will keep on killing our people?"
 
Karzai said last week the agreement might have to wait to be signed until after Afghanistan's presidential election in April 2014, when he will step down after 12 years as the country's leader. (NYT, DW, RFE/RL, Nov. 24)

The Taliban for its part condemned the Loya Jirga for endorsing the security agreement and pledged to continue to its fight against foreign forces. "The Islamic Emirate strongly condemns such Jirgas and resolutions of slavery and declares that such illegal worthless agreements and promises by slaves will not benefit the aggressing Americans or their criminal stooges," the Taliban said in a statement. "Rather the wrath of the nation will become even stronger and the accords between a master and his slave will be discredited and remain futile just like the past documents of slavery in Afghanistan... Such agreements will only increase the fervor of Jihad in the arteries of true Afghans and will strengthen their Jihadi ranks. Afghanistan shall truly become the graveyard of the international arrogance and not a ground for perpetual bases." (Khaama Press, Nov. 25)

Karzai protests new drone strike

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., US commander in Afghanistan, called President Hamid Karzai to apologize for a drone strike in southern Helmand province, which the military conceded had killed and wounded civiliansy. The first of two strikes, in Garmsir district, targeted an insurgent commander traveling on a motorcycle, but missed him and apparently hit civilians. One child was reported killed, and two women were severely wounded. The targeted man fled on foot and was killed by a later drone strike. In the second, i