KABUL: The United States and Afghanistan have agreed a final version of a crucial security pact outlining where and how many US troops can remain in Afghanistan after most foreign forces leave the country next year, an Afghan official said on Tuesday.
Thousands of Afghan tribal and political leaders are due to gather in Kabul this week to decide whether to allow US troops to stay after the 2014 drawdown of foreign forces.
The last-minute deal was reached just two days before they gather to debate the pact. It will contain provisions to give US troops immunity from Afghan law and allow them to enter Afghan homes in exceptional circumstances.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has long objected to both but the United States has said the provisions are crucial in order for its forces to remain in the country beyond 2014.
Aimal Faizi, a Karzai spokesman, said the agreement was partly owed to a promise by US President Barack Obama to write a letter to the Afghan people acknowledging mistakes made during the 12-year war.
“Both sides agreed that Obama send a letter … assuring the president and the people of Afghanistan that the right to enter into Afghan homes by US forces and the extraordinary circumstances will not be misused,” Faizi told reporters.
Previously, Karzai had planned to present the tribal elders with two versions of the pact, which would have increased the chances of key US demands being rejected and it pulling all its troops out after 2014.
“The whole idea of having a letter was to acknowledge the suffering of the Afghan people and the mistakes of the past. That was the only thing that satisfied the president,” Faizi added.
The letter is to be presented along with the draft at the meeting of tribal elders that is due to start on Thursday and run for several days.
If the council votes in favor of the pact with the United States, it will still need the approval of both houses of parliament and the president’s signature before it is ratified.
The presence of foreign forces is a sensitive issue in Afghanistan, particularly if they cannot be held accountable by local courts. Scores of students demonstrated Tuesday in an eastern city, denouncing the pact and burning effigies of US President Barak Obama.
“We don’t want any US bases and we want to see US soldiers who kill Afghans tried in an Afghan court,” said Noor Ahmed, a student of the Islamic University of Nangarhar, in the provincial capital of Jalalabad.
The pact also gives the United States sole control of Bagram Air Force Base, north of the capital Kabul, and access to eight bases, including one in Kabul, Rezayee and another lawmaker, Khaled Pashtun said.
US congressional aides in Washington have confirmed the draft includes “exclusive jurisdiction” for the US over American troops and contractors. Aides said the agreement says US forces will no longer be able to enter Afghan homes, addressing concerns about highly unpopular night raids by foreign troops.