Karzai eases demands for signing security agreement

Afghan President Hamid Karzai scaled back some of his demands for a U.S.-Afghan security agreement on Wednesday but did not commit to signing the document before the end of the year.

In an interview with Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty Wednesday, Karzai said that he would sign the security pact when the United States agrees to end all raids into Afghan homes and start a peace process with the Taliban. 

But he eased his demand that the U.S. guarantee free and fair elections, saying he was satisfied for the time being with assurances he’d received from national security adviser Susan Rice that the U.S. would not interfere with the Afghan presidential elections next year.

“I have demanded an end to all American attacks against Afghan homes and the beginning of a realistic peace process. Whenever the Americans meet these two demands of mine, I am ready to sign the agreement,” Karzai said in the interview with the U.S.-funded outlet.

“She assured me that this time, there will be no interference in our election,” Karzai said of Rice. “So for now, I have her assurance. But I am watching them to see whether they interfere in the election or not.”

Still, Karzai did not say he would agree to the U.S. demand that he sign the agreement this year, rather than waiting until after the presidential elections in the spring.

Rice warned Karzai that the U.S. would have no choice but to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan if the agreement was not completed before the end of the year. She also said that the $8 billion in foreign aid to Afghanistan was at risk.

Karzai’s stance has drawn criticism within Afghanistan, as the country’s Loya Jirga, a council of elders and leaders, voted to approve the pact and urged Karzai to sign it immediately.

But the Afghan leader, who cannot run for a third term next year, has refused to do so, instead outlining his new demands before the agreement is finalized.

Karzai said Wednesday that it was the Loya Jirga that raised another demand that’s unlikely to be accepted by the U.S.: the release of Afghan detainees at Guantánamo Bay to Afghanistan.

He tied the immediate signing of the agreement to the release of Guantánamo detainees in Wednesday’s interview.

“If the Americans want to implement the recommendations of the Loya Jirga, and one of the clauses that the Loya Jirga has recommended is an immediate signing of the security agreement, then they cannot ignore this other clause that demands the freeing of Afghan prisoners. Such things are not acceptable,” Karzai said.