Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said a decision on immunity for U.S. forces staying in the country after 2014 will be made toward the end of this year.
Speaking at a Kabul news conference after his return from Washington, Karzai said on January 14 that the Afghan government had rejected an initial U.S. proposal regarding the issue.
"We 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 said.
President Barack Obama said on January 11 the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan would shift to a support role for Afghan forces during the spring of 2013 -- a few months earlier than expected.
Obama said his talks with Karzai also included the issue of a "possible" U.S. presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
But he insisted that the United States would not leave any troops in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign combat forces if U.S. military personnel are not granted immunity from prosecution by the Afghan courts.
Instead, Obama wants U.S. troops who commit crimes in Afghanistan to fall under the jurisdiction of U.S. military courts.
Karzai said January 14 that the issue of U.S. troop immunity was not up to his administration to decide.
"The decision regarding immunity for American soldiers in Afghanistan is a very important issue. Which condition of immunity [do] they want from us?" Karzai said.
"The government of Afghanistan cannot make a decision on this. This decision should be referred to the people of Afghanistan in a Loya Jirga (a meeting of political and tribal leaders) which would be asked whether immunity should be given to American soldiers or not. And if we give them immunity, how and under which conditions?"
Karzai also said he expected the U.S. to restart the process of transferring Afghan detainees to Afghan custody within two weeks.
Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters