An assembly of tribal elders in Afghanistan has agreed to a long-term security deal with the U.S. but is imposing some conditions, including an end to night raid operations and a demand to hand over Afghan detainees in U.S. custody.
The traditional council of 2,000 elders, or loya jirga, was put together by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in an attempt to build political support for a security partnership with the U.S. that would keep American troops in Afghanistan for a decade past 2014.
Many argued that Karzai held the gathering precisely because the Afghan parliament and the people the members are supposed to represent, would never have agreed to such a deal.
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 attempted to disrupt the meetings, in one instance managing to launch two rockets at the structure housing the jirga outside Kabul.
Undoubtedly, Karzai’s eagerness to establish support for an ongoing U.S. military occupation stems from strong U.S. pressure to stay. Still, Washington regards the council as nonbinding, and it is not clear to what extent the Pentagon will abide by the coucil’s conditions. Previous pleading from leading Afghans has resulted in staunch dismissals.