Loya Jirga Chairman Thinks Gathering Unecessary

News - Afghanistan

President Hamid Karzai's Loya Jirga, intended to determine the fate of the Kabul-Washington Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), is set to be held sometime in mid November in Kabul. But with only weeks left even Sebghatullah Mujadadi, the Jirga's Chairman, has voiced reservations about the purpose of the gathering.  

In addition to Mujadadi's appointment, Sadeq Mudaber was tapped to be the head of its Secretariat, Nematullah Shahrani as First Deputy and Said Hamed Gillani as Second Deputy.

The men will preside over a Jirga that was proposed by President Karzai back in August as a strategy to leave future of the contentious security pact with Washington up to the Afghan people. The BSA is expected to outline the future of U.S. involvement in Afghan national security after the NATO combat mission ends in 2014, including the number and function of troops to remain behind for what has been called a "advising, training and assisting" mission.

The Afghan President's choice to defer the fate of the agreement up to a Jirga has received a mix of approval and disapproval from Afghan power players. Some have applauded it as a democratic way of deciding on what has been regarded as an accord that could determine whether Afghanistan sinks or swims after the coalition's departure. Others, however, have been less positive, calling the decision a waste of time, reckless and even illegal in some cases.

While introducing the Administrative Board and head of the Secretariat, Mr. Mujadadi, the designated leader of the Jirga, even voiced disagreement with the Jirga being the method relied upon for finalizing the BSA.

"There was no need for holding the Advisory Loya Jirga for signing the Bilateral Security Agreement. This could have been solved through discussions with the United States," Mujadadi said.

Nevertheless, the Jirga is moving forward, and is now expected to convene in a matter of weeks. The traditional form of consensus decision-making will bring together thousands of local, national, religious and political leaders from around the country.

"The number of participants will be around 3,000 people and they will be divided into 16 categories, of which there will be members of parliament, provincial councils, civil society and representatives of the people," said Mudaber, the head of the Jirga's Secretariat.

The provisions of the BSA have been hotly debated between U.S. and Afghan negotiators over the past year since talks began. It wasn't until last weekend, when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to Kabul, that most of the agreement was finally ironed out. Reportedly, the only issue that remains unsettled is that of U.S. troop immunity from Afghan judicial jurisdiction, which Kerry said could make or break the deal and Karzai said he will leave up to the Jirga.

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