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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now, to the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan today, a grand assembly of tribal elders and political elites, called a Lorya Jirga, concluded its review of a proposed security agreement between the two countries. The accord would allow thousands of U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after the NATO mission ends next year. The 2,500 delegates to the Loya Jirga resoundingly approved the deal but it's not clear when, or if, President Hamid Karzai will sign the agreement. NPR's Sean Carberry reports from Kabul.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: For three hours, the chairs of the Loya Jirga's 50 committees read out their findings and recommendations. Each committee had its list of proposed revisions and clarifications to the draft agreement that's been under negotiation for more than a year.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

CARBERRY: Some wanted the U.S. to set up courts at its bases in Afghanistan to try any American soldiers accused of crimes here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken)

CARBERRY: Others said they wanted Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo turned over to Afghan custody. And others still said they wanted the agreement to ban the U.S. from monitoring cell phones and emails of Afghans. But, they all agreed on two things. They approve the agreement as a whole, and they want President Karzai to sign it within the next few weeks. They added that condition because of a surprise Karzai pulled at the opening session of the Loya Jirga last week.

PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI: (Through Translator) The agreement should be signed when the election is conducted, properly and with dignity.

CARBERRY: To the consternation of Afghan and U.S. officials, Karzai said he would not sign the agreement until after Afghanistan's presidential elections in April. The U.S. says that won't be enough time to plan and budget the post 2014 military mission in Afghanistan. And so, all eyes and ears were on Karzai today when he took to the podium. The visibly fatigued leader said more time is needed to negotiate revisions and to see if the U.S. is sincere.

KARZAI: (Through Translator) If the U.S. brings us peace, we will sign the agreement.

CARBERRY: Karzai's refusal to commit to signing the deal prompted a scolding from the chair of the Jirga, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi. The aging former president says he views Karzai as a son, but one who doesn't always listen to him.

SIBGHATULLAH MOJADDEDI: (Through Translator) President Karzai should promise us that he is going to sign the agreement soon. It's for our good.

CARBERRY: Political analysts in Kabul argue that Karzai is trying to delay signing the security agreement because it's the last major piece of political leverage he holds as president. They say once he signs the deal, he becomes a lame duck. Sean Carberry, NPR News, Kabul.

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