On Nov. 18-21 about 3,000 Afghan tribal elders will meet in Kabul to pass judgment on a conditional Bilateral Security Agreement(BSA) negotiated by Karzai with US Secretary of State.
Organizers of the meeting, called a loya jirga, said that leaders of the Taliban would be welcome to attend the meeting. The loya jirga will be charged with deciding on the issue of immunity of US troops from Afghan law an issue that Karzai insisted should be left to the loya jirga to decide. However, the agreement will go before parliament as well after the decision of the elders.
The US will not agree to any BSA that does not grant immunity of troops from Afghan law. Sadeq Modabir, a member of the organizing committee said: "We expect around 3,000 representatives to attend the jirga. It may last between four and seven days.If the Taliban announce that they will send representatives, we welcome them," The Afghan government is anxious to communicate with the Taliban but the Karzai government is regarded by them as a puppet of the US and NATO. However, they might attend a meeting of Afghan elders since it is not a government institution.
An Enduring Strategic Partnership was negotiated between Afghanistan and the US over two years ago and came into effect on July 4 2012. The agreement covers the broad outline of relationships between the two countries from 2014 to 2024 but left the issue of the number of US troops to remain after 2014 and their role to be negotiated in a separate Bilateral Security Agreement that is yet to be concluded.
A 2011 loya jirga discussed the strategic partnership and it said that Afghan forces should lead all security operations and that US troops on Afghan soil should not receive immunity. Unless the group has changed its mind, this means that they will probably again reject immunity.
The same result could happen in Afghanistan as in Iraq where the US until the very end thought that they would be keeping troops in the country but the Iraqi government refused to grant immunity to US troops. The result was that no US troops remained when the Status of Forces agreement ended. Afghan officials have dismissed the possibility that the US could enact the "zero option" of keeping no troops in Afghanistan. If the conditional BSA agreement is accepted between 5,000 and 10,000 troops would remain in Afghanistan to train the Afghan security forces and battle insurgents.
The US has been pushing Karzai to sign the agreement by the end of this month. However, it will be the end of November at the earliest that the BSA can be approved but I expect that it will not be approved at all.