Taliban in Afghanistan Vows to Disrupt Loya Jirga

Posted November 15th, 2011 at 3:05 am (UTC-5)
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The U.S. State Department says it is confident that this week's traditional assembly of Afghan leaders will affirm the close ties between the United States and Afghanistan.

More than 2,000 Afghan politicians, tribal elders and community leaders are gathering in Kabul on Wednesday to begin a several day loya jirga to discuss relations with the United States and reconciliation efforts with the Taliban.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday that the U.S. has the “utmost respect” for the loya jirga, saying he has “great confidence” that it will reaffirm the “strong partnership” between the two countries.

On Sunday, the Afghan Taliban threatened to disrupt the assembly, releasing documents that it says are top-secret security arrangements for the meeting.

Both NATO and Afghan officials have dismissed the documents as fake, saying the posting is an attempt to intimidate those planning to attend the meeting.

Afghan officials have stepped up security in advance of the gathering. On Monday, Afghan security forces killed an attempted suicide bomber outside the venue of the jirga. Two other would-be attackers were arrested.

During a similar gathering in 2010, Taliban militants carried out an attack relatively close to the tent where the jirga was being held, injuring three civilians.

Jirga participants this week are expected to discuss what presence, if any, the United States will have in Afghanistan following the scheduled withdrawal of all foreign combat troops in 2014.

They are also to cover plans by the Afghan government to make peace with the Taliban. Those plans were undermined in September by the assassination of President Hamid Karzai's chief negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani.