US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) gives a press conference on October 12, 2013 with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul.(AFP Photo / Massoud Hossaini)
Talks between the US and Afghanistan to allow 10,000 American troops to remain in the country after NATO forces’ planned withdrawal in 2014 stalled Saturday on the issue of immunity for US personnel.
A long day of negotiations between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai yielded little result for the long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement, which would allow between 5,000 and 10,000 US troops to stay behind, to continue training Afghan security forces and to fight Taliban insurgents.
It is beyond the scope of the Afghan president and his government to decide whether to grant US military personnel immunity, Karzai told Kerry, adding that this “issue of jurisdiction” would be referred to the country’s loya Jirga, an assembly of elders, leaders and other influential people.
“We need to say that if the issue of jurisdiction cannot be resolved, then unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security agreement,” Kerry told reporters at a Kabul news conference, stressing, however, that an agreement was otherwise essentially in place.
Kerry said only a partial deal was reached on just how many US troops will stay in the country after the NATO pull-out next year. Washington wants to take the lead in running counter-terrorism missions after 2014, as well as to keep leasing bases around the country.
But such unilateral actions as the capture in recent days of Taliban commander Latif Mehsud by US forces have angered Karzai.
“This is an issue that we have raised in earnest with the United States in the past few days, as we have all previous occasions of such arrests in which the Afghan laws were disregarded,” Reuters reported Karzai as saying.
Karzai wants a guarantee that the US will protect Afghanistan from a potential Al-Qaeda invasion from neighboring Pakistan. He said that during the talks an agreement had been signed to ensure the welfare of the Afghan people.
“There will be no arbitrary actions and operations by the US, and a written document has been given to guarantee the protection of lives and properties of our people,” Karzai said.
Lawrence Freeman, editor of Executive Intelligence Review, told RT that the US’s “conflicted policy” in Afghanistan was drawing out negotiations.
Referring to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 as a “farce,” Freeman said that the US had no clear policy for the future of the region. He said that the US needed to introduce a serious development program rather than continuing with what he described as a policy governed by “geopolitical games.”
“There are some people who think we should have a military base in Afghanistan to have some kind of containment against Russian ambitions,” Freeman told RT, concluding that the West’s intervention as a whole was a “failure” when it comes to “forward-thinking, visionary policy.”