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Loya jirga approves U.S.-Afghan security deal; asks Karzai to sign

By Masoud Popolzai and Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 5:48 AM EST, Sun November 24, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Afghans want alleged crimes by U.S. soldiers prosecuted at U.S. bases on their soil
  • Most Afghan elders at the loya jirga approve of the security deal with the U.S.
  • At a loya Jirga, elder aim to bridge divides among ethnic groups, create consensus
  • Their decision is not binding, but Afghan President Karzai has said he will abide by it

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A vast majority of 2,500 Afghan elders voted Sunday at a traditional gathering to recommend a joint security agreement with the United States.

Members attending the 4-day-long loya jirga urged President Hamid Karzai to sign it before the end of the year.

Thousands of tribal elders made their way to the capital to join the loya jirga, a grand assembly, to confer on the key issue of whether or not to support the presence in their country of a limited number of U.S. troops beyond next year.

Amid some skepticism, they decided it was a good idea. U.S. Secretary of state John Kerry, who finished hammering out the deal with Karzai the day before the loya jirga began, was hopeful that they would.

The assembly's decision is not binding, but Karzai has said he will follow their recommendation under one condition -- that U.S. forces do not conduct house raids.

"If US military forces conduct military operations on Afghan homes even one more time, then there will be no BSA and we won't sign it," Karzai said Sunday. "They should give assurance about this to us before I sign it."

Home raids have been one of the main sore spots between Afghans and Western military presence led by the United States.

In spite of the broad backing, elders wanted to see one article changed. The current agreement gives the United States full jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed by the military on Afghan soil.

Many at the loya jirga would like to see the cases prosecuted on U.S. bases in Afghanistan, so that victims and their families may have their say in court.

READ: Rice: Reports of a U.S. apology to Afghanistan are false

READ: U.S., Afghanistan reach security pact through '2024 and beyond'

CNN's Greg Botelho contributed to this report.

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