Karzai stresses sovereignty, end to night raids
KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday told participants of the Loya Jirga that Afghanistan's relationship with the US should be one between two sovereign countries, saying he wanted national sovereignty to be protected at all costs.
The grand assembly that commenced today amid tight security in Kabul is discussing a strategic cooperation agreement with the United States and a mechanism for peace negotiation with Afghan militants.
A day earlier, the government announced closure of all educational institutions in Kabul for two days as part of security measures for the long-awaited meeting being attended by more than 2,000 people, including sitting and former parliamentarians.
Members of provincial council, representatives of civil society and special people, religious scholars and influential tribal elders are debating the pros and cons of the proposed agreement at the Russian-built Polytechnic Institute.
Karzai told the gathering that Afghanistan was prepared to sign the agreement with the US, but it must stop night raids and building parallel institutions in the country. He said they would allow the US to establish military bases only if it was ready to meet Afghanistan's conditions.
He believed the bases were in the interest of Afghanistan and US assistance essential for training Afghan forces. The president once again assuaged neighbours' concerns over the deal and said Afghanistan saw its national interests in having good relations with them.
America might be more powerful and richer, but "we are lions", he remarked.
Karzai said such agreements were also being discussed with England, France, European Union and Australia, but the pact with the US had a difference. "We want our national sovereignty today at all costs," the president said.
He asked attendees for proposals on the strategic agreement and a mechanism for peace talks with the rebels. "Afghans know terrorism is not in their villages and houses and the war against it must be fought where it has safe heavens," he said.
Karzai called the Jirga as an advisory forum and assured Parliament that the accord would be sent to it for approval after going through the legal process.
"Everyone can criticise the government as we have the freedom of expression in the country," Karzai said in reference to former Taliban ambassador Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef's denunciation of his administration.
The whole world had benefited from the Afghan jihad that made the US the sole superpower, united Germany and helped Pakistan emerge as a nuclear power, Karzai said, adding the second round of the security transition would begin in the next few days.
The government needed advice whether to hold talks with Pakistan or the Taliban for lasting peace in the region, Karzai said, explaining the assassination of former president and top peace negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani, had dealt a blow to popular aspirations and confidence in the reconciliation process. Rabbani was killed in a suicide attack at his Kabul residence on Sept. 20.
However, Karzai said the desire for peace was still alive in their hearts and all Afghans wanted peace and reconciliation efforts to be reviewed. “We will act based on your deliberations and decisions,” Karzai said, appreciating peace endeavors made by Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
In his hour-long speech, Karzai insisted on certain conditions in exchange for a US presence on military bases in his country beyond the 2014 troop withdrawal. He repeatedly called for a halt to house searches by foreign troops, an end to night raids, the dismantling of foreign-run detention facilities and respect for national sovereignty.
"The U.S. wants military installations from us. We will give those to them. But we have conditions for this. We will benefit from this. Our soldiers will be trained. Our police will be trained, we will benefit from their money.”
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