Karzai Outlines Conditions for US Troops Remaining in Afghanistan

Posted November 16th, 2011 at 4:45 am (UTC-5)
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai says his country wants its sovereignty and an end to night raids as conditions for a strategic partnership with the United States under which some U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai said Wednesday he does not want parallel institutions set up alongside his government.

He spoke at the opening of the four-day loya jirga, or grand council, where more than 2,000 Afghan politicians, tribal elders and community leaders are meeting to discuss relations with the U.S. and possible peace talks with the Taliban.

The meeting in the capital, Kabul, is being held amid tight security, after the Taliban threatened to disrupt the talks.

Mr. Karzai is set to outline the second phase of transferring security responsibility to Afghan forces, which officials said last month would involve all or part of 17 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

The transfer process began in July, and Afghan police and troops have already taken charge of several cities and provinces as foreign combat troops prepare to leave by the end of 2014.

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

The U.S. State Department has expressed confidence the assembly will reaffirm the “strong partnership” between the two countries.

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.

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.

In southern Afghanistan Wednesday, NATO says one of its service members was killed by a roadside bomb, but did not give additional details on the attack.