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Afghan leader pleased with elders' demands

By Nick Paton Walsh and Masoud Popalzai, CNN
updated 10:49 PM EST, Sat November 19, 2011
More than 2,000 Afghan leaders are attending the loya jirga -- a national assembly -- in Kabul.
More than 2,000 Afghan leaders are attending the loya jirga -- a national assembly -- in Kabul.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The loya jirga met under tight security
  • The assembly is tolerant of U.S. bases -- for now
  • The jirga is against secret talked between the U.S. and insurgents
  • Karzai is expected to ultimately shape any deal with the U.S.

(CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday endorsed the plank of a national assembly of tribal elders, a list of demands that include no immunity for U.S. personnel who commit crimes and a halt to any secret talks between the United States and insurgents.

The elders held a four-day summit called a loya jirga, a meeting held to address Afghanistan's relationship with the U.S. and other international military forces. A list of more than 76 demands was read out at the jirga's conclusion.

The 2,000 community leaders gathered under maximum security after the Taliban threatened the participants. But it passed without major incident or political challenge to Karzai.

"I was worried that you might be too soft or too harsh towards this," Karzai told the elders. "But now after listening to your advice in 76 articles, I have nothing more to add and I agree with every single piece of advice you give today."

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The jirga said it was against U.S. bases in Afghanistan "in principle," but would tolerate them for now.

It insisted that Americans should not have the power of arrest or be able to run prisons. The elders said forces should cease controversial and highly unpopular night raids.

The jirga demanded any military bases be kept away from cities, agricultural land and mining facilities, saying they were best placed near the borders to protect Afghanistan, particularly from Iranian or Pakistani territory.

"American citizens who commit any crime on Afghan soil should not have impunity and should be prosecuted inside Afghanistan and under Afghan judicial law," one of the demands said.

In Iraq, a similar demand that immunity for U.S. troops from prosecution be relinquished had been key to the ongoing and precipitous departure of U.S. troops there.

The jirga also called for end to all secret peace talks between the insurgency and international forces.

The United States and other NATO members have reportedly made a number of faltering attempts to contact and discuss the possibility of negotiating with the Taliban. But such moves have irritated Afghan officials who have also publicly discussed these overtures, all but ensuring their failure.

The loya jirga ended with rowdy interruptions from the audience and the president let his hecklers talk on.

Karzai will now take the suggestions to parliament, which is expected to have a say on these issues and any deal with the United States. But most analysts expect Karzai to ultimately shape the nature and detail of any agreement.

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