U.S. apology for errors in Afghanistan rumored
KABUL — The Obama administration has offered to write a letter to Afghans acknowledging past mistakes by forces in Afghanistan, a last-ditch effort to salvage negotiations over a long-term security agreement, Afghan officials said on Tuesday.
The purported offer — officials are not confirming they plan to write the letter — occurs because complications arose in recent days in talks over keeping a small contingent of troops in Afghanistan past 2014. Although a draft of the security agreement has been in place for weeks, a final sticking point has emerged over whether American troops will have the authority to enter the homes of Afghan citizens.
Amid the disagreement, more than 2,500 Afghan elders and officials are gathering in Kabul this week to consider whether to endorse a long-term security deal with the United States. Afghan President Hamid Karzai hopes to present the agreement to the gathering, called a loya jirga, on Thursday.
To try to resolve the impasse, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Karzai by phone.
During the call, Karzai insisted that Kerry or another high-ranking official attend the loya jirga to defend the Obama administration's reasoning for wanting to continue to give troops access to the homes of Afghans, Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi said. Kerry said he could not attend and instead offered to write a letter to the Afghan people, Faizi said.
“He said, ‘We would like to write a letter to participants that acknowledges Afghans have suffered in the past 12 years during the operations, and we want to make sure this does not happen again,' ” according to Faizi.
Officials acknowledged that the phone call took place but had no comment on the Afghan account of it.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States “always expresses regret when civilians are killed.”
He told reporters at his daily news briefing: “It's not a new issue in our relationship. It's one we've discussed openly in the past.”
In recent weeks, the Obama administration's hopes of keeping several thousand troops in Afghanistan in training and support roles have run into resistance in Afghanistan.
Until now, the biggest dispute has centered around whether forces would have immunity from prosecution in Afghanistan if they violate local laws. But the sides have since agreed on language that stipulates that the United States would have exclusive legal jurisdiction over American military personnel and Defense Department civilians working with them.
At the same time, the draft accord makes clear that no one is exempt from prosecution for wrongdoing, officials said.
Most estimates have indicated that the administration plans to keep 5,000 to 10,000 personnel in Afghanistan after the end of combat operations next year. According to the working draft, the commitment would last indefinitely, although it could be revisited at any time by either country.
To move beyond the issue of troops in Afghan homes, Karzai issued a statement late Tuesday saying Kerry has offered to limit such movement to only “exceptional and special cases.”
Karzai offered to put that language to the loya jirga, the statement said, but he wants Kerry to “personally take part in the loya jirga to defend his country's” proposal.
Otherwise, the signing of the agreement would be delayed until after Afghanistan elects a president in April 2014, the statement said.
If such a delay were to occur, the Obama administration has signaled it would likely walk away from the agreement and proceed to a full pullout of all U.S. forces by the end of 2014.
Sayed Salahuddin in Kabul and Karen DeYoung and Scott Wilson in Washington contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- DNA matches child born in Vietnam, father in Texas after 40 years
- Iraqi forces retake key oil refinery from ISIS
- Dissidents on ballot in Cuban elections
- Replica of ship that aided American cause sets sail
- Australian teenagers arrested in plot to attack veterans event
- Suicide bomb blast in Afghanistan tied to Islamic State
- Pakistan could put nukes on new submarines sold by China
- Iraqi PM, visiting United States, rips Saudi airstrikes in Yemen
- Vatican, U.S. nuns try to put acrimony in past with report
- Al-Qaida exploits chaos in Yemen, seizing weapons depot
- Medical, sanitation supplies reach Yemen’s war-torn capital