Karzai Says Decision On US Troop Immunity Likely By Year End

Category: Politics / Jan 14, 2013 4:02PM EDT
A decision on immunity for U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan after the 2014 planned withdrawal will be made by the end of the year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Monday (January 14). "We (Afghanistan and the U.S.) will soon start the next round of the negotiations in Kabul we will exchange our views. This negotiation process will take at least seven, eight or nine months to reach an agreement," Karzai told a news conference in the capital, Kabul, after returning from meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington. Karzai said he was confident security would not deteriorate in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the NATO-led force. "The main question is that whether by the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan the situation will become insecure? No, by no means, it's the other way around. Afghanistan will be a secure and better place. We should remove this idea from our mind that if there are no foreign troops in our country we will not be able to protect the country, that is wrong," he said. The Afghan government rejected an initial U.S. proposal regarding the question of immunity and a second round of negotiations will take place this year in Kabul, Karzai added. He said the negotiations could involve Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, a "grand assembly" of political and community leaders convened for issues of national importance. "The decision regarding immunity for American soldiers in Afghanistan is a very important issue, which condition of immunity they want from us. The government of Afghanistan cannot make a decision on this. This decision should be referred to the people of Afghanistan in a loya Jirga (grand assembly) to be aked whether immunity should be given to the American soldiers or not. And if we give them immunity, how and under which conditions," Karzai said. The Obama administration has been considering a residual force of between 3,000 and 9,000 troops in Afghanistan to conduct counterterrorism operations while providing training and assistance for Afghan forces. But the administration said last week it did not rule out a complete withdrawal after 2014. The United States is insisting on immunity from prosecution for any U.S. troops that remain. -Reuters