A security pact with the US but with full Afghan sovereignty: that was Hamid Karzai’s call at a large meeting of tribal elders in the capital Kabul.
The President told the 2,000 delegates that Afghanistan’s relationship with the US should be one of two independent states.
Kabul is negotiating a strategic partnership with Washington to define America’s role after its scheduled troop withdrawal by 2014.
Karzai said US military bases would be allowed: it would bring in money and training for Afghan forces.
But, he added, the country would never accept a long-term American military presence on its soil.
Security at the traditional gathering known as Loya Jirga is tight and has every reason to be so. The Taliban has threatened to attack it.
On Monday a suicide bomber was shot dead trying to enter the site. The Taliban said they had obtained a security plan for the event, a claim dismissed by Afghan authorities as propaganda.