KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai told a meeting of tribal elders and political leaders on Thursday they should support a vital security pact with the United States, but acknowledged there was little trust between the two nations.
The Loya Jirga, or grand council, involving about 2,500 Afghans convened a day after Karzai and Washington reached agreement on a pact defining the shape of the U.S. military presence after a 2014 drawdown of multinational NATO force.
“My trust with America is not good. I don’t trust them and they don’t trust me,” Karzai said.
“During the past 10 years I have fought with them and they have made propaganda against me.”
The five-day Loya Jirga will now debate the draft and decide whether U.S. troops will stay or leave Afghan forces to fight the Taliban insurgency alone.
For almost a year, Washington and Kabul have struggled to conclude a Bilateral Security Agreement that will help determine how many U.S. soldiers and bases remain in Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops exit by the end of next year.
The Taliban have condemned the traditional Loya Jirga as a farce. Insurgents fired two rockets at the tent where the previous Loya Jirga was last held in 2011, but missed the delegates.
The Afghan tribal elders and political leaders, who have travelled from all over the country to attend the grand assembly, have voiced frustration over the way negotiations between Kabul and Washington have been conducted.
U.S. forces arrived in Afghanistan soon after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington and helped Afghan fighters topple a Taliban-led government which harbored the al Qaeda leaders.
Their presence has generated deep enmity among some Afghans who resent what they see as U.S. violations of their sovereignty. They have also been angered by civilian casualties suffered during U.S. military operations.
Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni and Katharine Houreld Writing by Dylan Welch and Maria Golovnina; Editing by Jeremy Laurence