Karzai calls for partnership with America but with conditions
The Washington Post By Joshua Partlow, Wednesday, November 16, 2011
KABUL — President Hamid Karzai set the conditions for his country’s strategic partnership with the United States, saying on Wednesday that Afghanistan would allow long-term American bases here as long as American troops stopped conducting operations at night, searching homes or detaining Afghans.
Karzai’s comments came at the opening of a large assembly, known as a loya jirga, which convened more than 2,000 delegates from around the country to discuss Afghanistan’s future relationship with the United States, as well as the prospect of negotiating with the Taliban.
"We want to have a strong partnership with the U.S. and NATO, but with conditions," Karzai said. "We want our national sovereignty, and an end to night raids and to the detention of our countrymen.”
Karzai flew by helicopter from his palace to the jirga venue across town, a sign of the level of concern about possible Taliban attacks during the conference, which is scheduled to run for at least four days. Afghan security forces blocked several roads in Kabul and searched cars and pedestrians for explosives; government offices and many shops were closed.
The grand council, a traditional Afghan custom that is intended to resolve disputes or generate consensus, has been dogged by controversy since it was announced. Karzai’s opponents have suspected the conference has ulterior motives, such as boosting momentum for Karzai to change the constitution and run for a third term, a prospect Karzai has publicly ruled out.
They also see the jirga as a way for Karzai to drum up the appearance of popular support for his agenda with Washington — in this case an effort to sign a strategic partnership agreement that would outline the terms of the relationship in the decade after 2014. The tribal elders and local leaders from across the country will debate the merits of that plan in coming days.
The U.S. and Afghanistan have been negotiating the strategic partnership document for months. The U.S. wants long-term bases in Afghanistan for training and counter-terrorism missions. The Afghans want American funding for their security forces and more control over how the U.S. military operates in the country. Karzai has long criticized U.S. troops for intruding in Afghan lives, killing civilians and arresting the innocent.
“The U.S. wants military installations from us. We will give those to them. But we have conditions for this,” Karzai said in his speech. “We will benefit from this. Our soldiers will be trained. Our police will be trained, we will benefit from their money.”
Among the conditions, Karzai said the night raids and house searches must stop and that U.S. troops in the future should not be able to detain Afghans. “They have no right to take prisoners,” he said.
He also called for an end to “parallel structures,” a favorite term of his that often refers to the coalition-run provincial reconstruction teams. Karzai has criticized these PRTs for sapping power from the provincial governments, as they have doled out millions of dollars in development projects.
“The relations between us and America should be the relations between two sovereign nations,” Karzai said.
Special correspondents Sayed Salahuddin and Javed Hamdard in Kabul contributed to this report.
Karzai calls for parternership with America but with conditions - The Washington Post