Afghan Taliban reject US partnership deal
21 November, 2011
KABUL: The Taliban on Sunday rejected as a "show" the endorsement by a traditional assembly of a strategic partnership deal with the United States that could allow its troops to remain in Afghanistan for years.
In a statement sent to media, the terrorist group said the assembly, or Loya Jirga, which ended on Saturday was orchestrated by the Afghan government to achieve American aims.
"All the participants were active government workers. What they discussed at the jirga was what America wanted," said the Pashto-language statement quoting Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
"In the past 10 years they brutally searched Afghans' houses, they detained Afghans and put them in their prisons, they destroyed people's orchards... and this cruel army still wants to continue its barbarism for another 10 years."
After four days of talks, loya jirga delegates endorsed a strategic partnership deal which will govern the presence of US troops in Afghanistan after 2014, when all NATO-led foreign combat forces are due to leave. But they insisted on a string of conditions including that US nationals committing crimes in Afghanistan must not be entitled to immunity, and that the US must side with Afghanistan if a third country tries to attack it.
President Hamid Karzai accepted the conditions and recommendations of the jirga, which brought together 2,000 delegates from around the country in Kabul for four days, saying they were "for the good of Afghanistan".
The meeting also backed holding talks with members of the Taliban who renounce violence, despite the assassination in September of peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani which officials blame on insurgents.
More than 1,000 university students blocked a main highway in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday to protest any agreement that would allow U.S. troops to remain in the country after a planned transfer of authority in 2014. On Sunday, 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."
Both 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 idea of the proposed security agreement is to keep a US military presence in Afghanistan past 2014, when most international forces are to have left. Afghan and US officials envision a force of several thousand US troops, who would train Afghan forces and help with counterterrorism operations.
The pact would outline the legal status of that force in Afghanistan, as well as the rules under which it would operate and where it would be based. The jirga's resolution carries no legal weight, but could bolster Karzai's negotiating position with the United States during difficult talks under way to craft what Washington is calling a Strategic Partnership Document.