On Thursday, Hamid Karzai urged key Afghan leaders to support a security pact with the US looking beyond the scheduled NATO troop withdrawal in 2014. The provisional deal, reached in talks on Wednesday with US Secretary of State John Kerry, would keep a contingent of troops in Afghanistan to "train, equip and assist" - but not engage in combat.
"They will stay here for 10 more years to assist and train Afghan security forces and leave Afghanistan in 2024," Karzai told a gathering or around 2,500 tribal elders and political leaders known collectively as the "Loya Jirga," or grand council.
"This pact should be signed when the election has already taken place, properly and with dignity," Karzai, who cannot run in the 2014 vote under the constitution, told the elders.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama wants the security pact approved and signed by Afghanistan's government by the end of this year.
Despite portraying the deal itself as good for Afghanistan, Karzai had far less praise for the US itself. He said he did not trust Washington and would defer the signing ceremony for the agreement to his successor in next year's presidential vote.
"My trust with America is not good. I don't trust them and they don't trust me. During the past 10 years I have fought with them and they have made propaganda against me," the president told the assembly.
Karzai came to power in an acting role in December 2001, almost immediately after the US ousted the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington. The former opposition politician, who had toured Western countries seeking support prior to the military mission, was then voted in as president in Afghanistan's first post-Taliban elections in 2004.
The governments in Washington and Kabul have spent almost a year debating details of a Bilateral Security Agreement to cover the period after ISAF security forces cease combat missions in Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Most countries with troops in Afghanistan have already begun the piecemeal process of withdrawing them.
The elders within the Loya Jirga have the right to revise or reject any clauses in the proposed deal with the US. The agreement also requires parliamentary approval.
msh,dr/ph (AP, dpa, Reuters)