Afghan Grand Council Opens in Kabul Despite Taliban Threats

Posted November 16th, 2011 at 3:10 am (UTC-5)
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More than 2,000 Afghan politicians, tribal elders and community leaders are meeting amid tight security in the capital, Kabul, to discuss the future of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and plans for transferring security control to Afghan forces.

The four-day loya jirga, or grand council, opened Wednesday despite Taliban threats to disrupt the meeting.

President Hamid Karzai is set to outline the second phase of the security transfer, which officials said last month would involve all or part of 17 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

The meeting is also expected to cover what presence, if any, the United States will have in Afghanistan following the scheduled withdrawal of all foreign combat troops by the end of 2014. The U.S. State Department has expressed confidence the assembly will reaffirm the “strong partnership” between the two countries.

The talks will also include discussion of plans by the Afghan government to make peace with the Taliban. Those plans were undermined in September by the assassination of President Karzai's chief negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani.

But as Afghan leaders plan to discuss how best to combat the worsening security situation in the country, Agriculture Minister Mohammad Asef Rahimi told VOA Tuesday that crops and not guns will determine Afghanistan's future.

Some analysts say government corruption, coupled with incompetence and mismanagement, plagues the reconstruction efforts and contributes to the country's insecurity. But Rahimi sees positive developments saying his ministry is close to realizing one of its goals of producing enough food to feed all Afghans and sell to others.

The process of transferring full control from foreign to Afghan forces began in July, and Afghan police and troops already have taken charge of several cities and provinces.

But some provincial governors have expressed concern about the Afghan forces' readiness to take over security, especially as violence continues.

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, wounding three civilians.