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Loya Jirga Head Rejects Karzai Demand to Delay U.S. Pact Signing

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s demand to delay the signing of a security pact with the U.S. until after April’s presidential vote is unacceptable and will harm the country, the head of a council of tribal elders said.

Karzai has “no right” to delay the signing of the accord that would pave the way for an American presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, chairman of the loya jirga council called by the president, said yesterday.

“Every demand of Mr. Karzai and ours have been practiced and accepted by them,” Mojaddedi told reporters in front of the council’s compound in Kabul.

President Barack Obama’s spokesman, Jay Carney, on Nov. 22 said the U.S. government needs the Bilateral Security Agreement with Afghanistan done by the end of the year, calling action “imperative” and the U.S. offer “final.” His comments followed those of Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi, who repeated the Afghan president’s stance that the accord shouldn’t be signed until after the country’s April presidential election.

Karzai, who has pressed for a bar on American forces entering Afghan homes, publicly raised another obstacle yesterday, charging on his website that U.S. troops killed civilians during a raid on an Afghan residence.

Officials of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force yesterday said the Nov. 19 operation in Nangarhar province in which two Afghan brothers were killed was a joint U.S.-Afghan mission, not one of the American special operations forces’ “night raids” the Afghan president has criticized frequently.

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The loya jirga, a gathering of more than 2,500 Afghan tribal elders, political leaders and intellectuals, is due to make its recommendation later today on the agreement that would let some U.S. forces remain in the country after 2014 to train the Afghan National Security Forces and conduct counterterrorism operations.

After that, the agreement would have to be signed by both countries before it’s ratified by Afghanistan’s parliament and signed into law by Karzai, according to two U.S. officials who briefed reporters Nov. 21 on condition of not being identified discussing the process.

Karzai’s public show of toughness is a throwback to his stance ahead of a 2011 loya jirga to consider the U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement, said Jawid Kohistani, a Kabul-based political and security analyst. The legally binding agreement was signed in 2012.

The president’s speech ahead of the council that year was similarly combative, Kohistani said. Karzai then backed down and signed after that loya jirga gave him “political cover.”

“It will be interesting to see if he now allows himself to be persuaded by the council and moderates his tone, as he did then.”

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