John Kerry and Afghan President reach preliminary agreement on bilateral security


US Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have reached preliminary agreement on a bilateral security pact that now depends on the approval of Afghanistan’s tribal leaders.

The pact, announced jointly by Kerry and Karzai late on Saturday after two days of talks in the capital, Kabul, would keep some US forces in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of most foreign troops by the end of next year.

The draft includes a US demand to retain legal jurisdiction over its troops who stay on in Afghanistan, which would give them immunity from Afghan law.

Karzai opposes that and said the question could not be decided by his government. Instead, a Loya Jirga, or an assembly of elders, leaders and other influential people, will consider the demand and decide whether to accept it.

The US is insisting it cannot agree to a deal unless it is granted the right to try in the US its citizens who break the law in Afghanistan.

“We need to say that if the issue of jurisdiction cannot be resolved, then unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security agreement,” Kerry told a news conference.

US officials said they wanted the pact finalised by the end of October and Kerry’s visit was seen as a last-ditch effort to push it through before the deadline.

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