Karzai Seeks Legitimacy at Jirga
President Hamid Karzai convened a meeting last week of over 2,000 Afghans to participate in a four-day traditional jirga in Kabul. The dual purpose of this large-scale traditional gathering of elders and leaders was to discuss the possibility of a strategic partnership with the United States and whether the Afghan government should continue to pursue peace talks with insurgents. Although this traditional jirga was only consultative, some Afghan officials fear its endorsement of Karzai’s political agenda would allow him to claim legitimacy and call similar events in the future to stifle opposing voices in government.
The jirga issued a 76-point resolution on Sunday that closely mirrored Karzai’s view of the need for a strategic partnership agreement with the United States. However, the endorsement is dependent on a series of conditions, including the cessation of coalition night raids, the closure of U.S. and internationally-operated prisons, and a stipulation that U.S. personnel who commit crimes in Afghanistan be tried in Afghan courts. If enacted, the agreement would permit U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan for up to ten years, and the Afghan government could ask for an extension at that point.