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Kerry, Karzai resolve parts of security deal but flounder on legal jurisdiction

October 14, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: After more than a year of on-and-off discussions, the U.S. and Afghanistan moved one step closer this weekend to an agreement over what happens after the U.S. pulls out next year. But the remaining hurdles are real.

Secretary of State John Kerry took in the Kabul skyline Saturday night as he left Afghanistan with an agreement in principle on some key elements of a deal on U.S. troop presence, but not on others. Kerry surprise meeting with President Karzai was intended to come up with a way to let some troops remain in Afghanistan after next year’s pullout deadline.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: We have resolved in these last 24 hours the major issues that the president want through. We have resolved those issues.

GWEN IFILL: Left unresolved, which country would have legal jurisdiction over the 10,000 U.S. forces that could remain behind if they were to be accused of crimes. That issue ultimately derailed similar U.S. negotiations with Iraq and led to a complete U.S. withdrawal there. Kerry said that issue is equally critical in Afghanistan.

JOHN KERRY: We need to say that if the issue of jurisdiction cannot be resolved, then, unfortunately, there cannot be a bilateral security agreement.

GWEN IFILL: But Karzai insisted it is not up to him to decide whether to grant American soldiers legal immunity from Afghan courts.

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PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI, Afghanistan (through interpreter): That is beyond the authority of the Afghan government, and it is only and entirely up to the Afghan people to decide upon through two mechanisms. One is the traditional loya jirga of Afghanistan. The second is the constitutional mechanism, which is the Afghan Parliament.

GWEN IFILL: Karzai has already called a loya jirga of tribal elders for next mob.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, called today for his fighters to step up attacks on Afghan and NATO forces. He warned that even if the U.S. and Afghan governments manage to strike a deal, the Taliban will continue to fight.