Opponents say Karzai should not allow US forces to stay
28 January, 2013
KABUL: President Hamed Karzai returned from his latest trip to Washington with a series of concessions on the timetable for withdrawing international forces from Afghanistan and the transfer of American-held detainees.
But his critics at home were left unsatisfied, with some saying he should have secured a pledge that all foreign troops would be gone by the end of 2014, and other voices raised against granting United States troops immunity from prosecution.
On his return from talks with President Barack Obama in Washington, Karzai set out the agreements they had reached at a Kabul press conference on January 14.
The NATO-led international force will begin pulling troops back from the Afghan countryside in three months' time – earlier than anticipated, although their withdrawal from the country remains scheduled for 2014.
Also this spring, US forces will focus on training their Afghan counterparts, an effort that Karzai said would not end until 2017, with a possible extension to 2024, says a report by Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
He also said he had obtained a promise that US-run prisons in Afghanistan and all detained persons in the country would be handed over to Afghan jurisdiction within two weeks. That is one of several issues that has been an irritant in US-Afghan relations, and it is no coincidence that both Obama and Karzai made remarks underlining the importance of Afghan sovereignty.
Another contentious point, and one that Karzai had to concede at his Washington talks, was the issue of US servicemen being immune from prosecution under Afghan law.
For the US, this is a non-negotiable condition if a small contingent of American troops is to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. When a similar question arose in Iraq, the Baghdad government's refusal to grant immunity led to the US pulling out all military personnel at the end of 2011.