About 2,000 Afghan elders will gather this week for a loya jirga, or grand council, with President Hamid Karzai, who is seeking support for a security partnership with the U.S. that would keep American troops in Afghanistan for a decade past 2014.
The council will negotiate what might be the acceptable terms of a bilateral security agreement that would govern U.S. military presence in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. But some see it as a political power play for Karzai.
Karzai’s former presidential challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, criticized the idea of Karzai hand-picking a group of people to speak for and somehow constitute the wishes of over 34 million Afghans. Many point to overwhelming Afghan opposition to such an agreement as exactly what Karzai is trying to avoid.
Many in the Afghan parliament are angry that they are being sidelined for a group of presumably pro-Karzai elders. “The real representatives of the people are in parliament, said Nasrullah Sadiqizada Nili, a lawmaker from Day Kundi province. “We have been elected. The jirga delegates have only been selected by the administration.”
The Taliban have condemned the jirga as an attempt by the U.S. to orchestrate a permanent military presence in Afghanistan. The meeting is supposed to start Wednesday and last a number of days.