Karzai says Afghan peace in US hands
KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai on Thursday said he had received a letter from his American counterpart, promising respect for Afghanistan’s sovereignty and seeking protection of the US troops staying in the country after 2014.
In the letter, Obama had promised US troops would enter Afghan homes only under exceptional circumstances, the president told the consultative Loya Jirga in Kabul. He hoped the jirga would take a constructive decision on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) in the supreme national interest.
Karzai acknowledged the long-running trust deficit between his administration and the United States, admitting: “I don’t trust them and they have little confidence in me. I leave the decision to you when the BSA should take effect -- before or after the 2014 presidential and provincial council elections.”
Lasting peace and security were among the main conditions of his government for the agreement, he said. “What I have learnt from my 10-year rule, peace in Afghanistan is in the hands of Americans and Pakistanis.” He called upon both to play a sincere role in this regard.
China, India and Russia were supportive of the security deal, despite their differences with Washington on other issues, he said. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey also overtly back the deal that is stoutly opposed by Iran.
He insisted on inclusive and transparent polls, free of domestic and foreign interference. The vote was central to future stability in the country, he said, seeking international support for the elections.
“Whatever decision you take will be supported by the nation. Even people outside the country are waiting for the verdict of this august forum,” the president said, emphasising on participants not to let anyone influence their conclusion.
While welcoming participants and wishing them all success in taking a positive decision on the country’s prosperous future, he asked the jirga to minutely study the BSA text before they floated any suggestion on it to the government.
Ahead of the grand tribal assembly, Kabul literally came to a standstill and the government announced five-day holidays to ensure the jirga reached its prime objective of giving the government a constructive opinion.
In an effort to spotlight the need for analysing the BSA text minutely, the president characterised the security accord as more important than the Strategic Partnership Agreement with the US. He himself had looked closely at each clause of the text, the president said.
During negotiations on the deal, there had been testy exchanges on the questions of civilian casualties and night raids, the president confirmed, claiming his demands for strengthening Afghan forces and respecting their national sovereignty had been duly considered.
Karzai reiterated his administration’s oft-repeated stance that terrorist hideouts were not in Afghan villages. International troops, therefore, should take action where militant safe havens existed, he argued.
As the president highlighted the salient features of the vital pact, a woman parliamentarian loudly protested in a bid to interrupt his speech, but security forces bundled her out of the Loya Jirga Tent in Polytechnic area.
Under the agreement, the president explained, 10,000 to 15,000 US, NATO and Islamic countries’ troops would stay in the country after the 2014 pullout of foreign combat soldiers.
If the BSA was signed, he said, the US would have the right to Bagram Airbase, Kabul International Airport, Kandahar Airbase, Shindand Airbase, Herat International Airport, Mazar-i-Sharif Airport and Shorab base in Helmand.
They will also use land ports in Torkham, Nangarhar, Spin Boldak, Kandahar, Torghondi, Herat, Hairatan, Balkh, and Sher Khan in Kunduz.
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