World Bulletin / News Desk
Tribal elders, governors, lawmakers, religious scholars and community leaders from across Afghanistan are descending on capital Kabul to attend a key meeting of the Loya Jirga – or "Grand Assembly" – to discuss a proposed security deal with the US.
"Representatives of all ethnicities and tribes of the country are going to participate," Jirga spokesman Hussaini Pashayee said on Wednesday.
With the participation of more than 2,500 public figures from across the country, the four-day meeting will be inaugurated by President Hamid Karzai on Thursday.
According to Pashayee, all 34 state governors – along with lawmakers, tribal leaders, religious scholars, academics, lawyers, civil society activists and representatives of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran – have been invited to attend the gathering.
Under the Afghan constitution, the president has the right to invite the Loya Jirga to consult on major national or international issues before providing him with their recommendations.
Participants are expected to discuss and advise President Karzai on a proposed security agreement with the United States.
The deal, if signed, will allow the long-term presence of US troops in the country following the scheduled withdrawal in 2014 of US-led foreign forces.
Currently, some 52,000 US troops remain stationed in Afghanistan. The US would like to retain nearly 10,000 of them beyond 2014.
If the bilateral security agreement is not signed, however, all US troops would have to leave the country next year.
It will be the fifth Loya Jirga to be convened since a US-led coalition ousted the ruling Taliban regime in 2001.
Members of an emergency Loya Jirga held in June and July of 2002 elected Karzai as president of the interim administration.
In December 2003, members of the Loya Jirga wrote the Afghan constitution.
In 2007, tribal leaders and various representatives from Afghanistan and Pakistan gathered for a joint Jirga assembly aimed at bolstering cooperation and promoting peace in the two countries.
The Loya Jirga met again in 2012 to discuss an Afghan-US strategic partnership agreement.
The major point of contention at the upcoming Jirga will be Washington's demand for legal immunity for its troops staying beyond 2014.
After the opening speeches, Jirga participants will be divided into 50 working committees.
On the fourth day, the committees will formulate their recommendations, which the general Jirga assembly then discuss and pass on to the government.
"The Afghan people need the security agreement with the US," Mohamed Omar Nangyalai, a lawmaker from the Kandahar province, told AA.
"There will be negative and positive points of view regarding legal impunity for American soldiers, but we will see what the outcome is," he added.
The legislator insisted that neither the Kabul government nor the US had any influence over the Loya Jirga.
During US Secretary of State of John Kerry's visit to Kabul last month, President Karzai said that all major differences regarding the proposed security deal had been resolved, except for the issue of legal immunity.
Karzai described the US request as a potential deal breaker, saying he planned to seek the opinion of Jirga leaders and elders.
"Traditional Loya Jirgas have played a vital role whenever the Afghans made important decisions through history," Ghulam Sakhi Baghlani, governor of Kunduz province, told AA.
He said the request for legal impunity for foreign forces in Afghanistan was "understandable."
"I think it will be hard for us, too, to prosecute American soldiers here," Baghlani asserted.
"If American soldiers commit a crime here, I believe they will definitely be prosecuted under their own laws in their own country."Last Mod: 20 Kasım 2013, 14:07