November 21, 2013 Special Dispatch No. 5530

Backgrounder: Loya Jirga Called In Kabul To Discuss Afghan-U.S. Bilateral Security Agreement And Question Of Immunity For U.S. Troops After 2014

November 21, 2013
Afghanistan | Special Dispatch No. 5530

Loya jirga to be held in Kabul

From November 21 through 24, Kabul will host a loya jirga (grand assembly) of tribal chieftains and prominent Afghans to debate the proposed Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the United States, with the major point of confrontation being whether U.S. troops should get immunity from prosecution after 2014.

More than 2,500 representatives have been invited to discuss the draft agreement and suggest amendments before it is signed by the two countries.

Following are excerpts from an Afghan media report, which gives details about the loya jirga.

"[Afghanistan And The United States] Reached Agreement On A Number Of Important Issues, But The Afghan Government Has Left The Ticklish Issue Of U.S. Troop Immunity To The Consultative Loya Jirga"

"Kabul will host an epoch-making consultative Loya Jirga from Thursday [November 21, 2013] to Sunday to debate the nitty-gritty of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the U.S. and advise the government on whether or not the deal should be signed... Around 2,500 people's representatives, tribal chieftains and others will attend the assembly, for which all the arrangements have already been finalized. A literal security blanket has been thrown around the city, where several busy entry points have been blocked.

"National assembly and provincial council members, scholars, women, civil society groups, the Kuchi tribe, people with disabilities, traders, industrialists, rights activists, governors, presidential candidates and representatives of refugees are also among invitees. Numbering 532, elders from different parts and communities of the country constitute a vast majority of participants. 'All requisite preparations are in place and participants have reached the capital,' the Loya Jirga preparatory commission spokesman said.

"Abdul Khaliq Hussaini told Pajhwok Afghan News that the forum, having 50 committees to thrash out the BSA text, will elect its board members after candidates were named by each category. Discussing only the agreement, the jirga will last four days.

"Over the past two years, Afghanistan and the U.S. have held several rounds of tough negotiations on how to shape a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014, when all foreign combat troops are scheduled to leave. Both countries reached an agreement on a number of important issues, but the Afghan government has left the ticklish issue of U.S. troop immunity to the consultative Loya Jirga. Some political and civil entities consider signing the pact an imperative for Afghanistan in the current situation, but others oppose the deal legalizing the presence of U.S. troops."

"Karzai Invited [Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's] Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan And The Taliban To Participate In The Event... The HIA Declined The Invitation And The Taliban Demonstrated Their Disagreement Through A Suicide Attack In Front Of The Jirga Venue"

"President Hamid Karzai invited Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan [HIA led by fugitive militant commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar] and the Taliban to participate in the event and share their views with the government. The HIA declined the invitation and the Taliban demonstrated their disagreement through a suicide attack in front of the jirga venue.

"Meanwhile, the preparatory panel said a number of media outlets had released a fake draft of the pact, creating confusion among the masses. The commission said on the eve of such an important gathering, a number of groups had launched propaganda, but their falsehood had been exposed. The commission insisted the document released was starkly different from the original one that was yet to be distributed to jirga committees.

"American troop immunity and their unilateral operations are the main controversial issues in the BSA. But the two sides agreed if the jirga gives U.S. troops the right to search Afghan homes, President Karzai will guarantee the American military avoiding past mistakes. The government has announced six-day... holidays to address traffic jams and reinforce security in Kabul. A number of similar jirgas have taken place in Kabul over the past 12 years, including the constitution Loya Jirga and peace jirga."

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