Karzai talks of pact with U.S.

Nov. 16, 2011 at 10:55 AM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the United States must stop night raids if it wants to keep bases in Afghanistan past 2014.

Addressing a loya jirga, or a meeting of tribal elders and leaders, in Kabul amid extremely tight security, Karzai stressed the need Wednesday for a long-term security pact with the United States that respects Afghan sovereignty.

"We want our national sovereignty, and an end to night raids and to the detention of our countrymen," the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph quoted Karzai as saying. "Yes, America is rich, strong, and has more population than we do, has bigger territory than we do, but we are lions. A lion is a lion even if even it gets old ... America should treat us as a lion."

NATO officials have suggested they would be reluctant to cut back on night-time raids against insurgents, The Daily Telegraph said.

CNN said Karzai's speech at the jirga appeared designed to raise his nationalist credentials.

Karzai called the jirga, attended by some 2,000 delegates, to discuss relations with the United States after the scheduled 2014 withdrawal of most U.S. and NATO troops, reconciliation efforts with some of the insurgents and the transfer of security responsibility to Afghan forces.

He said the planned departure of NATO troops in 2014 is "good for Afghans," CNN reported.

On allowing long-term presence of foreign military in the country, Karzai said: "I'd like to tell them they can't arrest any Afghan on our soil and they can't have prisons. We have a justice and security system and that is up to us," CNN reported.

Karzai said any peace deal with the insurgents would need the blessing of jirga elders.

Security for the jirga was extremely tight and security forces remained on high alert due to Taliban threats.

Earlier this week, the Taliban claimed it had the confidential security plans for the jirga. Security forces Monday shot and killed a suicide bomber seeking to attack the site of the jirga, which is being held under a tent.

"The U.S. and Afghanistan are close partners and allies, and we have great confidence that this loya jirga is going to reaffirm that strong partnership," U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said earlier.

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