The South Asia Channel
Kerry, Karzai reach partial deal on Bilateral Security Agreement
Partial deal reached U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced on Saturday that they had reached a partial security agreement, but said differences remained over whether U.S. troops left in Afghanistan after the U.N. mandate ends in December 2014 will have immunity from Afghan law (BBC, CNN, LAT, Post, NYT, ...
Partial deal reached
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced on Saturday that they had reached a partial security agreement, but said differences remained over whether U.S. troops left in Afghanistan after the U.N. mandate ends in December 2014 will have immunity from Afghan law (BBC, CNN, LAT, Post, NYT, Reuters, VOA). Kerry made an urgent trip to Kabul after reports emerged that the talks concerning the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which will determine the size and scope of a post-2014 U.S. presence, were close to being called off over the differences (LAT). Kerry told reporters that there cannot be a security agreement unless the issue of jurisdiction over U.S. troops is resolved, but said the decision "is up to the Afghan people as it should be" (RFE/RL).
For his part, Karzai said that the question of whether Afghanistan can try U.S. citizens for crimes they allegedly commit on Afghan soil is "beyond the authority of the Afghan government," leaving the decision up to a vote in a traditional Loya Jirga (grand assembly) or the country’s parliament (AJAM, Pajhwok). While Karzai seems to be in favor of letting the jirga determine the fate of the BSA, several presidential candidates have said the decision should be turned over to parliament. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, leader of the National Coalition of Afghanistan opposition movement, released a statement on Sunday saying that parliamentary approval for the security deal would be more credible, an argument echoed by presidential contender Anwarul Haq Ahadi on Monday (Pajhwok, Pajhwok).
The negotiations over the BSA have been plagued by a variety of issues but one of the most recent concerned the capture of a high-ranking member of the Pakistani Taliban. Last Thursday, Afghan officials said they had been trying to recruit Latif Mehsud to serve as an interlocutor for peace talks, and that he had been in Afghan custody when he was forcibly captured by U.S. soldiers. While spokesmen for the Pentagon and CIA declined to comment on the incident, Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, confirmed on Friday that U.S. forces had captured Mehsud, though she did not specify when or where the incident had occurred (AJAM, BBC, CNN, Fox News, RFE/RL).
While the United States and Afghanistan edged closer to finalizing the BSA, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, released a statement on Monday saying that the militants would continue fighting Kabul if the security deal was signed (AFP, ET). In an e-mail sent to media outlets on the eve of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Omar said a continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 will justify the continuation of the war and "bring grave consequences" (RFE/RL). Omar also called on Afghans to boycott the 2014 presidential elections and said that the Taliban’s now shuttered political office in Doha, Qatar was the only one that could engage with the international community (AP, Pajhwok).
An American soldier was killed in Afghanistan’s Paktika province on Sunday when a man wearing an Afghan security force uniform opened fire on a group of coalition trainers (AP, CNN). While it was the third such attack in less than a month, the number of insider attacks has significantly declined. According to the New York Times: "So far this year, 15 coalition service members have been killed in 10 attacks, compared with 55 killed last year in 43 attacks during the same period" (NYT). No one has claimed responsibility for the incident.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) released a fact-finding report on Monday that suggested conflicting reports on terrorist attacks in Balochistan show some operational coordination between sectarian militant groups and Baloch separatists (Dawn). While the HRCP was not in a position to verify this coordination, it demanded that such allegations be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated. It also recommended that the results of those investigations be made public. The HRCP called upon the government of hold immediate talks with the insurgents, and urged the insurgents to stop attacks on innocent civilians (ET).
Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s outgoing army chief, said on Saturday that the army supports the government’s policy of dialogue with the country’s Islamic militants (AP, RFE/RL). Speaking at the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottbad, Kayani said the army would be "more than happy" if the negotiations led to peace, but added that it had the ability to handle the internal militant threat by force if necessary. Kayani recently announced that he will retire in November but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has yet to appoint his successor (VOA).
Pakistani officials told the Express Tribune on Sunday that senior military officials from Pakistan and India are expected to meet next month to discuss a plan for restoring a ceasefire along the Line of Control in Kashmir (ET). Security forces for the two countries have been exchanging fire for several weeks, increasing tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. The decision for the meeting between the two military leaders came when Sharif and Manmohan Singh, his Indian counterpart, met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly last month.
Amb. James Dobbins, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, arrived in Islamabad on Monday to finalize the agenda of a meeting scheduled to occur between President Obama and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on October 23 (Dawn). Dobbins will be meeting with Sartaj Aziz, Sharif’s advisor on foreign affairs and national security, to discuss potential points to be raised during the meeting, as well as the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014.
Pakistan’s Forrest Gump
Kharlzada Kasrat Rai, a 37-year-old Pakistani, who began walking to Saudi Arabia on June 7 to make his Hajj pilgrimage and arrived in Mecca on October 1, a little less than four months after he started (ET). Rai, who dedicated his trek to world peace, covered the 6,387 kilometers on foot, walking across Iran, Iraq, and Jordan before getting to Saudi Arabia. While this was Rai’s first time walking to Islam’s holiest city, he is an experienced walker. Four years ago, he walked from Lahore to Islamabad (327 km) in 14 days and in 2007, he walked 1,999 km across Pakistan in 85 days.
— Bailey Cahall