Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Loya Jirga to Approve Long-Term US Military Presence

The Afghan government has announced that a Loya Jirga will convene in November to try reach unity on a new security agreement that would allow a long-term U.S. military presence in the country beyond 2014. A key issue will be the legal framework. Much will hinge of the level of immunity the Afghan government will allow to the foreign troops and contractors.

The proposed agreement has been drafted over many months by representatives of the U.S. and Afghan governments.

The United National Front a newly formed Afghan political group is pushing back. Calling for the removal of all foreign forces.

"Experience has shown us that foreign forces cannot bring peace to Afghanistan. We will have peace when we remove the causes of conflict among [Afghan] people," Mozhdah said. "One of the key reasons for fighting here is that we don't trust each other. We need to sit and talk to each other to gain each others trust."

Abubakar Siddique has the story. Entitled Afghan Opposition Grows to Next Stage of U.S. Military Presence.
"The opposition to the draft agreement also reached the halls of parliament, where the issue was discussed this week. The next stage for the debate is a loya jirga, or national council, whose date was announced this week and is intended to help determine a course of action.

The traditional gathering, set to begin on November 16, will provide a setting for more than 2,000 Afghan politicians, tribal leaders, clerics, and lawmakers to debate over a four-day period.

The 2005 security agreement signed by Kabul and Washington pledged U.S. cooperation for democracy building, improved governance, and economic and security cooperation. The new agreement focuses on the U.S. military role in the country after 2014, when most NATO combat operations are expected to be over.

Specific details are unavailable, but Afghan officials reportedly say the new agreement would likely give the government greater control over foreign aid and military operations while allowing a long-term U.S. presence in the country.

Afghan officials have also suggested in local media that some of their key demands, such as an end to night raids by foreign forces and mechanisms to protect Afghan civilians, are likely to be part of the final agreement.

In Afghanistan's Interests

These are among the most divisive issues within the Afghan government in its dealings with the United States, according to lawmaker Gul Badshah Majidi. He says that lawmakers on October 24 rejected a 2002 agreement with the International Security Assistance Force that allowed them to freely conduct military operations across Afghanistan. This, he says, indicates opposition to the new strategic agreement, which was also opposed by some lawmakers in recent debates.

Majidi says that the government needs to launch a robust information campaign to convince Afghans that the new agreement is different from the past agreements. And that it will actually serve Afghanistan's national interests. He says that the issue comes up in discussions with his constituents in southeastern Paktia Province who express pessimism over the deal.

But he says that they often change their views after learning more about the nature of the agreement. "I think the ultimate decision about the agreement will entail a legal framework for the presence of these forces. Their presence is needed in Afghanistan and it will serve Afghanistan's national interests," Majidi says. "The people of Afghanistan are still concerned about the return of the Taliban. They are also worried about an occupation by the Pakistan-based [fundamentalist] militias."

Afghan officials expect to host 2,030 people in the November loya jirga. They plan on briefing participants on the draft agreement before the assembly formally opens on November 16.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently indicated that the draft agreement agreed by the traditional leadership council will be sent to the parliament for final approval."

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Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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