KABUL, Afghanistan — The United States and Afghanistan agreed Saturday on a draft deal that would keep some U.S. forces in Afghanistan past next year, but only if Afghan political and tribal leaders agree to a key U.S. demand that American troops not be subject to Afghan law, Secretary of State John Kerry said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the framework security agreement meets his demands regarding counterterrorism operations on Afghan soil and respects Afghan sovereignty. The U.S. demand to retain legal jurisdiction over all remaining U.S. forces will be put before a national consultative assembly of tribal elders, or loya jirga, Karzai said. He plans to convene the body next month.
Kerry and Karzai broke an impasse in negotiations during two days of intensive talks in the Afghan capital, as an Oct. 31 deadline approaches for negotiating terms for some U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan after combat forces depart in 2014.
The two welcomed the agreement but said it hinges on the question of legal jurisdiction.
"The one issue that is outstanding is the issue of jurisdiction," Kerry said at an evening news conference with Karzai. "We need to say that if the issue of jurisdiction cannot be resolved, unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security agreement."
Negotiations will continue, they said.
At issue is whether a U.S. force of between 5,000 and 10,000 will remain in Afghanistan after the NATO-led combat operation ends in 2014. Karzai long ago agreed to the schedule for the departure of international forces, which have been both a political irritant in Afghanistan and a key guarantor of Karzai's political survival.
There are about 87,000 international forces in Afghanistan now, including 52,000 from the United States.
The agreement provides a legal framework for continued U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, including the leasing of Afghan bases. The Obama administration considers the deal an executive agreement that does not require Senate ratification.