A Loya Jirga is called under duress – exceptional circumstances. It is a grand assembly of some 2,500 senior tribal figures.
Clerics, Afghan professionals, some members of parliament and traders are expected, including women. It is a consultative gathering. It’s opinions are non-binding. But they can lend legitimacy to the authorities’ actions.
While the pact is widely expected to pass, the US requirement for jurisdiction over its own troops deployed in Afghanistan could hold up a decision. President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman has confirmed that the bilateral security agreement needs both the Loya Jirga’s and parliament’s approval.
Without an accord, the United States says it could pull out all its troops at the end of 2014 and leave Afghan forces to fight the Taliban insurgency on their own. Karzai has said the Americans’ status will have to wait until after a presidential election in April. The US embassy in Kabul declined to comment on Karzai’s statement.
NATO has a supporting combat mission in Afghanistan which ends the end of next year. Up to 15,000 foreign troops could remain there after 2014 if the pact is signed.
At least one of the candidates in the upcoming elections supports the treaty – Mohammad Daud Sultanzoy. He said: “In order for us to stand on our own feet we need alliances and it’s best to have those alliances regulated; this is a regulated attempt to conduct our matters in a manner that we know what to expect.”
The Taliban are fighting to expel foreign forces and impose their vision of Islamist rule. They have condemned the Loya Jirga. Insurgents fired two rockets at the tent where the previous Loya Jirga was held in 2011. There was no violence on the first of four days of these deliberations.
But on Saturday a car bomb in Kabul near the polytechnic school meeting venue killed six people.
President Obama has said many Americans had died or been seriously wounded in an effort to help and protect Afghan people; Washington pulled its forces out of Iraq in January 2012 when Baghdad rejected a similar US jurisdiction demand.