Afghanistan may consider giving conditional immunity from local prosecution for US troops remaining in the country after NATO forces withdraw in 2014, President Hamid Karzai said today.
Negotiations on a US-Afghan security pact that involves talks on the status of US bases in post-2014 Afghanistan were launched in November but negotiators said the immunity issue was not discussed in the first round.
However Karzai said his government was ready to give immunity to US troops if they respected the sovereignty, laws and lives of Afghan people, and helped equip the Afghan security forces.
"Once those conditions are fulfilled by the US with us, Afghanistan is willing to consider immunity for them and I, as the president of Afghanistan, am willing to go to the Afghan people and put that case forward and try to argue for it," he told reporters in Kabul.
"But before I do that, I must make sure that the US respects Afghan sovereignty... that it doesn't keep prisoners in Afghanistan in violation of agreement with us, that it doesn't violate Afghans' homes," he said.
He also said the control of Afghanistan's air space, which is controlled by NATO, should be handed over to Afghans.
Securing immunity for US troops from local prosecution in Afghanistan has been a key issue for the United States and its allies. Washington recalled all its troops from Iraq after Baghdad refused to grant US soldiers immunity.
President Barack Obama is weighing plans to keep roughly 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan after the NATO-led force hands over security to the Afghan government, a senior US official said this week.
The troop levels under consideration remain tentative but the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said options range from 6,000 to 15,000 American boots on the ground.
The follow-on force would carry out counter-terrorism operations against Al-Qaeda and provide training and logistical support for Afghan forces, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said.
The United States has about 66,000 troops in NATO's total force in Afghanistan of slightly more than 100,000.