Afghan loya Jirga to meet next month to decide on Afghan-US security deal

KABUL: A national grand council (loya jirga) comprising about 3,000 Afghan tribal elders and civil leaders will meet in Kabul next month to decide whether to support the bilateral security agreement that will allow some US troops to stay in the country after 2014, officials said on Saturday.

The meeting will be held in the third week of November at a huge tented venue in Kabul, organizers of the jirga said, adding that leaders of the Afghan Taliban would be welcome to attend the event.

According to President Hamid Karzai, only a loya jirga could decide an issue of Afghan national sovereignty, with legal immunity for US troops remaining a potential sticking point in discussions.

“We expect around 3,000 representatives to attend the jirga,” Sadeq Modabir, a member of the organising committee, told reporters. “It may last between four and seven days.”

“If the Taliban announce that they will send representatives, we welcome them,” he added, in line with government policy to open communication with the insurgents.

A week ago, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Afghanistan’s capital to try to hammer out a deal after Karzai threatened to abandon negotiations. The two sides agreed on a text that could be taken to the loya jirga for approval, US officials said.

If the loya jirga passes the new text, between 5,000 and 10,000 US troops would stay in Afghanistan to help fight Al Qaeda remnants and train the national army.

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