In an historic decision, Afghanistan’s assembly of tribal and community elders, the Loya Jirga, overall approved a multi-page Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States. But it is still unclear when the deal will be signed.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai accepted the decision by 2,500 tribal and community leaders to approve the security deal. But in a 45-minute speech Sunday, the Afghan leader held fast to his decision to not sign the agreement right away, saying he first wanted to see peace and security in the country as well as free and fair presidential elections in 2014.
U.S. officials have rejected a delay, saying they would not be able to form long-term plans on a troop presence without an agreement in place by the end of this year. U.S.-led international combat forces in Afghanistan are set to withdraw by the end of next year.
The Afghan leader’s decision ran directly counter to the call by the head of the Loya Jirga, former president Sibghatullah Mojaddedi that he sign the pact before the end of the year.
The 10-year deal would allow a limited number of U.S. troops and U.S. defense personnel to remain in bases across the country. Their main missions will be to train, equip and assist the emerging Afghan security forces, and prevent al-Qaida and related terrorist networks from using the country as a base.
The Jirga members also delivered a list of 31 recommended amendments to the security document. The amendments included: the release of all 19 Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo; banning the United States from using communications in Afghanistan to spy on Afghans; and and barring U.S. use of Afghan soil for operations against Afghanistan’s neighbors.
Afghanistan is bordered by Iran and Pakistan, as well as China and Central Asia.