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U.S., Afghanistan to begin security talks

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By The Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:14 p.m.

KABUL — In talks that are likely to be confrontational, the United States and Afghanistan are scheduled to begin negotiations on Thursday on a new security arrangement between the two countries after U.S. combat troops withdraw from the war-torn country at the end of 2014.

The talks, which could last up to a year, will attempt to reach agreement on a new joint arrangement to satisfy the U.S. goal of denying terrorists a base of operations and Afghanistan's demands for sovereignty. They'll start amid a climate of suspicion and mistrust between the two countries.

The Afghan government has long complained about the conduct of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, particularly night raids by Special Operations troops and airstrikes and other attacks that kill civilians.

U.S. commanders and troops are incensed over insider attacks, also known as “green on blue” killings. Afghan soldiers and police — or insurgents wearing Afghan security force uniforms — have killed 58 NATO troops this year, including 35 Americans.

The most divisive issue is immunity from Afghan prosecution for U.S. soldiers accused of crimes, a jurisdictional dispute that wrecked similar talks between America and Iraq last year.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has demanded that U.S. troops answer to Afghan law. The United States has insisted that troops accused of crimes in Afghanistan be tried in the U.S. legal system.

The issue has taken on renewed urgency following the killing in March of 16 civilians in Kandahar Province, allegedly by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

Negotiations in Kabul over legal jurisdiction are expected to be pushed back to later in the talks, after less incendiary issues have been discussed.

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