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    South Asia
     Nov 21, '13

Kerry, Karzai agree pact before jirga
By Radio Free Europe

Thousands of Afghan dignitaries and elders have begun a Loya Jirga in Kabul to discuss a draft security pact between Washington and Kabul. The Jirga, starting November 21, will consider a text which gives Washington the exclusive right to try US forces in Afghanistan.

The text also says US forces "shall not target Afghan civilians, including in their homes," but does not expressly forbid them from entering.

US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Washington on November 20 that Washington and Kabul were in full agreement on the final wording of the text and it is now up to the Loya Jirga to consider it.

"It's up to the people of Afghanistan," he said. "When I left Kabul

that late night when President Karzai and I had finished the major part of the negotiation, we both said 'it has to go to the Loya Jirga.'"

He added, "There were some people who may have questioned or doubted if that was going to happen. Well, it's happening tomorrow. And it's happening tomorrow with agreed upon language between us."

Kerry also said there was no discussion of the possibility of a US apology to Afghanistan for previous civilian deaths.

"President [Hamid] Karzai didn't ask for an apology, there was no discussion of an apology," he said. "There will be - , there is no, it's just not even on the table."

A spokesman for Karzai, Aimal Faizi, was quoted this week as saying Karzai had requested a letter from US President Barack Obama acknowledging American mistakes in Afghanistan.

The pact will govern the presence of US forces in Afghanistan after the NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] combat mission ends next year.

The Loya Jirga, a traditional national assembly with some 3,000 participants drawn from across the country, can reject any clause of the draft agreement. In an effort to gain a national consensus, Karzai would like the Loya Jirga to give its approval of the pact before the document goes to the Afghan parliament for final approval and Karzai signs it.

The Taliban condemned the Loya Jirga as a farce, and security has been tight in Kabul following a suicide bomb attack near the assembly ground over the weekend.

Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC 20036. For original article, see here

Copyright (c) 2013, RFE/RL Inc.

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(Nov 19, '13)



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