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Back in Afghanistan, Karzai shifts tone on US troop immunity (+video)

Failure to agree on an immunity deal in Iraq ensured that US forces pulled out completely by the end of 2011, further diminishing America's influence there.

President Obama has long encouraged the Afghan government to seek peace with Taliban fighters. And, as Major Garrett reports, for the first time, Mr. Obama said he believes those talks are specific enough to deserve a formal home.
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A diplomatic dance has commenced between the United States and Afghanistan over a US request for legal immunity that would enable a contingent of American troops to stay on beyond 2014.

Failure to agree on an immunity deal in Iraq ensured that US forces pulled out completely by the end of 2011, further diminishing American influence there despite toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003 and fighting a bloody counterinsurgency to backstop the governments that followed. Now, observers are watching to see how Afghanistan will handle the issue, which would determine just how many soldiers stay past a 2014 deadline for withdrawal of combat troops.

"I can tell you with relatively good confidence that they will say 'all right, let's do it,' " President Hamid Karzai told CNN in an interview during a visit last week to the US. "And I'm sure that they will understand."

But freshly back in Kabul after meeting President Obama in Washington, Mr. Karzai today gave off subtle signals that suggest a deal may not be so easy. He said final agreement may depend on the decision of a loya jirga, or national gathering of elders, and shrugged off the impending withdrawal of the NATO-led foreign forces by saying the country afterward will be a "more secure and a better place."

“The US is standing firm by its demand for immunity for its soldiers," Karzai said today. "The Afghan government can’t decide on this. This is up to the Afghan nation to decide. The loya jirga will decide."  

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