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At Loya Jirga, Karzai Urges Support For U.S. Pact

President Hamid Karzai speaks during the opening of the Loya Jirga, in Kabul on November 21, 2013.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged thousands of Afghan dignitaries at a Loya Jirga in Kabul to support a key security pact with the United States.

Addressing delegates at the start of the Loya Jirga, Karzai said up to 15,000 foreign troops could stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 if the pact is signed. He said the pact would be in the country's best interest.

"With any decision you make here, you should consider the future of your generation's prosperity and decide based on Afghanistan's national interest," Karzai said. "I once again repeat this -- having relations with the world is for our own good and prosperity. At the same time, we should have our independence, which is our dignity."

The jirga -- which began on November 21 -- is considering a draft text that would form a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Washington and Kabul governing U.S. and other foreign forces that would remain in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO-led forces at the end of next year.

In an effort to gain a national consensus, Karzai said he would like the Loya Jirga to approve the pact before it goes to the Afghan parliament for final approval and Karzai signs it.

The deal would give Washington the exclusive right to try U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan. It also puts restrictions on U.S. forces entering the homes of Afghan civilians.

An earlier reported request by Karzai requiring the United States to issue an apology to Afghanistan for civilians killed in U.S. military operations was not part of the deal.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on November 20 that he and Karzai never mentioned such an apology when they discussed the security pact.

But U.S. President Barack Obama did send a letter to Karzai saying that Washington would respect "Afghan sovereignty" and "the sanctity and dignity of Afghans in their homes."

Karzai acknowledged to jirga delegates that there are problems between Kabul and Washington.

"My trust in America is not good," he said. "I don't trust them and they don't trust me. During the past 10 years, I have argued with them regarding the security of our people and the search of our people's houses."

Karzai raised concerns when he said at the Loya Jirga that he would defer signing an approved BSA with the United States until after the Afghan presidential election on April 5.

U.S. officials have been pressing for a quick approval and signing of the BSA to allow U.S. and other forces to begin planning a deployment.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan
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