Afghan students protest at pact to host US troops beyond 2014

More than 1,000 university students blocked a main highway in eastern Afghanistan yesterday after tribal elders agreed to discussions on a security pact that would allow American troops to remain in the country after a planned transfer of authority in 2014.

An assembly of more than 2,000 tribal elders and dignitaries known as a loya jirga endorsed negotiating a pact with Washington over the weekend, though it also backed a series of conditions proposed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that included the end of night raids by international troops and complete Afghan control over detainees.

Yesterday, the protesters in Jalalabad city denounced any agreement that would keep US troops in the country, blocking the road to Kabul and shouting: "Death to America. Death to Karzai."

The resolution and the protests reflect the tension in Afghanistan between a desire for real sovereignty and the need to bolster the relatively weak government against a still-strong Taliban insurgency. The proposed security agreement is to maintain a US military presence after 2014, when most international forces are to have left. AP

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