“There is mistrust between me and America. I don’t trust them, and they don’t trust me.”
Those were the words of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to the Loya Jirga assembly of elders on Thursday, as they gathered to discuss a vital security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan.
In a surprise move, Karzai indicated he might not sign the security deal allowing US troops to stay after 2014 and aid Afghan forces against the Taliban insurgency even if it was approved by the around 2,500 provincial and district council chiefs.
“If you accept it and the parliament approves it, this agreement should be signed when our election is over properly and with dignity, our security is guaranteed and we are assured that we are on the path of stability,” Karzai told the Loya Jirga.
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Karzai’s spokesman told Reuters the Afghan president would sign the deal after elections — which Karzai is not allowed to contest — were completed in April 2014. The spokesman did not explain how Karzai would sign it after a new president was elected.
A delay in signing the so-called Bilateral Security Agreement, allowing US troops to stay beyond 2014 to train Afghan forces, could be a potential deal breaker.
US officials have pushed for a deal as soon as possible, since delaying would put it too close to the end of the NATO combat mission.
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US President Barack Obama sent Karzai a letter Wednesday, stating that the US would respect “Afghan sovereignty” under the agreement. He added that the US military would not raid Afghan homes except under “extraordinary circumstances,” when US nationals were at risk.
Karzai and US Secretary of State John Kerry had agreed on a finalized version of the deal on Wednesday, which Karzai then presented to the Loya Jirga.