Despite growing public opposition, thousands of Afghan tribal elders and other leaders have reached an accord recommending the country’s president to sign a security deal with the United States.
The Grand Council of Afghanistan, Loya Jirga, endorsed the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States on Sunday.
“Given the current situation… and Afghanistan’s need… the contents of this agreement as a whole is endorsed by the members of this Loya Jirga,” said Fazul Karim Imaq, a deputy of the Loya Jirga said, reading a declaration reached at the end of the four-day meeting of Loya Jirga’s assembly of 50 committees in Kabul.
“The Loya Jirga requests the president to sign the agreement before the end of 2013,” Imaq stated.
Now the deal has to be approved by the parliament to take effect.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an address to the opening session of the four-day meeting on November 21 that the deal would not be signed until after the presidential election of April 2014.
The White House reacted to statements and said Karzai’s failure to sign the deal by the end of 2013 would prevent Washington and its allies from planning for the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
The security deal with the United States allows US troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
The issue of whether or not to grant legal immunity to American forces was a sticking point in the deal. Kabul considers the immunity a violation of its sovereignty.
Some members of the Grand Council called for an extra US military base to be added in the province of Bamiyan.
Meanwhile, protests were held while the Loya Jirga meeting was underway. Several huge protests have been held in Kabul and other major cities in protest at the deal.
Afghans say the deal between Washington and Kabul will pave the way for a prolonged US military presence in the country.
The United States has more than 43,000 troops in Afghanistan.