President Hamid Karzai urges Afghanistan's tribal elders
to let foreign troops stay

Decision by Afghan leader to defer signing of the deal is likely to anger Washington

Kabul and New York

The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, has urged tribal elders gathered in Kabul to ratify a security pact with Washington that would allow up to 15,000 foreign troops to remain on bases across the country until 2024; but he unexpectedly proposed that it should be signed only after next spring’s presidential election.

The uneasy allies have spent months discussing whether a reduced foreign presence would remain in Afghanistan after coalition combat troops pull out by the end of next year, or whether Afghan security forces would have to face the insurgency alone.

Mr Karzai finally accepted the outline of the pact, known as the Bilateral Security Agreement, or BSA, after receiving a letter this week from President Barack Obama with a guarantee that the US would continue to respect “Afghan sovereignty” and that American soldiers would not raid Afghan homes except under “extraordinary circumstances,” where US nationals might be at risk.

There had been suggestions, notably from Afghan officials, that the letter – passages of which were shared by Mr Karzai with the tribal assembly, or Loya Jirga – would include some form of apology for America’s “past mistakes” during a decade of operations in Afghanistan. That was not the case, however. Rather Mr Obama said that “we look forward to concluding this agreement promptly”.

That Mr Karzai chose to defer the signing of the deal until after the election, scheduled for 5 April, is likely to irritate Washington, as are some of his remarks at the Loya Jirga about distrust between him and the White House. “The past ten years have shown the Americans don’t trust me, and I don’t trust them,” he declared.

“I have always criticised them and they have always propagated negative things behind my back. If you approve this agreement, I want [it] signed after the presidential elections. If you agree to sign this agreement… we will ask for some time.”

Washington, which is familiar with Mr Karzai’s sometimes mercurial if not adversarial ways, has made clear its desire to finalise the agreement this month so that it can start planning a year ahead for the non-combat mission in the country. The urgency is also felt by Nato, which is waiting to negotiate its own status-of-forces agreement once the BSA sets the terms.

At the Loya Jirga, attended by 2,500 elders, Mr Karzai said the deal offered Afghanistan its best chance of stability. Without it, Kabul could struggle to hold key pieces of territory as its security forces are not able yet to stand on their own. Not only that, but the international community might reconsider its financial commitment to a country where the security situation remains uncertain.

In his 70-minute address, Mr Karzai also spoke of immunity, noting that the US would retain “exclusive rights” to try its soldiers accused of alleged crimes in Afghanistan. The issue has generated much enmity, especially since 2012 when Robert Bales, a staff sergeant, killed 16 Afghan villagers, nine of them children, and was flown home without trial. He later received a life sentence from a US court.

In Iraq, where the issue of immunity was also hotly debated, Baghdad’s refusal to extend the clause resulted in the complete withdrawal of all US troops in December 2011. Today, many of its cities still boil with sectarian violence. Kabul has expressed consistent fears that without a long-term security pact, Afghanistan could face a similar fate.

The city has been in lock-down since Tuesday to accommodate the Loya Jirga, which lasts four more days.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
Life and Style
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Year 2 Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Bognor Regis!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Year 2 Teacher currently need...

Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

£24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits