U.S. Drawdown Doesn't Satisfy Some Afghans

Afghan leaders have wrapped up their latest grand assembly, known as a loya jirga, where delegates from all over Afghanistan discussed topics key to the country's future. Among the issues they discussed was the level of U.S. involvement after the 2014 drawdown. Host Audie Cornish talks with Alissa Rubin of The New York Times for more.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish. Afghan leaders say they will support President Hamid Karzai's proposal for a long-term security pact with the United States. They issued their endorsement at the end of a four-day national assembly called a loya jirga. But their support comes with some conditions, including an immediate end to night raids on suspected insurgents. The agreement would govern the presence of U.S. forces remaining in Afghanistan after 2014, when most international forces will have left the country. Joining us now to talk about the proposed pact and the loya jirga is New York Times correspondent Alissa Rubin in Kabul. Welcome, Alissa.

ALISSA RUBIN: Thank you.

CORNISH: What more can you tell us about the details of the proposal that was brought by President Karzai?

RUBIN: Well, I think the most important elements are what the Afghans want the Americans not to be involved in. They do not want them to do night raids, as you mentioned. They often do not want them to enter houses. This has been a real sticking point. Afghans are very offended when non-Muslims come into their homes. They're very concerned about having Afghan women be in the presence of men to whom they are not related, which would be soldiers or special forces operatives who are there. And so that's a very important element. And they also want to have control over detainees. At the moment, there are a number of detainees that go through U.S. detention facilities here. Now, while there's been a long process of handing over detainees, it's far from complete and there are a number of problems with it.

CORNISH: How significant is it that Karzai won support for this security pact from the loya jirga?

RUBIN: Well, I think it's a bit of a mixed bag. I think it would be a terrible outcome if he had called the loya jirga and picked many of the people and they did not endorse it, since that was sort of the purpose, was to gather the weight of tribal and district and local political leaders behind the pact. On the other hand, there were a number of opposition figures who were quite irritated that they felt he was almost going around the parliament, which is an elected body.

CORNISH: Right, because the loya jirga, it's non-binding, correct?

RUBIN: It's non-binding and this was not composed in the way required by the constitution, which would make it a constitutional loya jirga. This was a group of people that the president chose to have come and hear his proposals and discuss them. I mean, there were some naysayers among it certainly, but a relatively small number compared to what I think might be a somewhat larger number nationwide. The idea of having American military here in Afghanistan after 2014 is something that is not supported in all parts of the country. And while there have been a number of people who would like to see some American presence, there are many particularly in the south and very traditional Pashtun areas that are extremely wary about it. And the neighbors are wary. Iran and Pakistan have been very negative about a long-term engagement with the United States.

CORNISH: Alissa, what happens with this proposal now?

RUBIN: Well, it formally goes to President Karzai and then he will send it on to the parliament to review. And you have to remember, at this point, there's no actual draft agreement yet with the United States or draft document. There's even a debate about what this long-term partnership will be called. Will it be a document - that's what the U.S. has described it as? Will it be an agreement that has some kind of force of law behind it? Will it be a treaty? I think most people have given up on a treaty, which would require the approval of the U.S. Senate. But I think that exactly how it goes to the parliament is still something we're waiting to see and whether perhaps it will be actually the agreement once that's completed that goes to the parliament. It seems like the more likely route.

CORNISH: Alissa Rubin, Afghanistan correspondent for the New York Times speaking to us from Kabul. Thank you, Alissa.

RUBIN: Thank you.

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