To maintain relation with Pakistan, Iran at any cost
We want national sovereignty at all costs, stop night raids
By Our Correspondent
KABUL - President Hamid Karzai told participants of the Loya Jirga that Afghanistan's relationship with the US should be one between two sovereign countries, saying he wanted national sovereignty to be protected at all costs.
The president, who called the Loya Jirga, appeared to have won over the majority of the audience with his speech, drawing cheers when he compared Afghanistan to a lion capable of standing on equal footing with the West. "It's true that America is a powerful, rich, strong country, but we are also a lion," he said.
President Karzai added that Our relationship with the United States should be the relationship between two sovereign states, definitely as two independent and sovereign countries adding that the United States is richer, more powerful, more populated than we are, it is larger than our country, but we are lions!
"Even if old, sick and feeble, a lion is still a lion! Other animals in the jungle are afraid of even a sick lion and stay away from him. We are lions, the United States should treat us as lions, and we want nothing less than that. We therefore are prepared to enter into a strategic agreement between a lion and America," he added.
A lion hates a stranger entering his home; a lion dislikes a stranger trespassing its space, a lion does not want his off-springs taken away at night. The lion (Afghanistan) does not allow parallel structures to operate, the lion is the king of his territory and he governs his own territory, The lion has nothing to do with others in the jungle, President Karzai said.
On our territory, Afghanistan's status as lion should be recognized. Only then we are prepared to sign the strategic agreement with America. We will provide them military installation. However, Afghanistan's vision and interests have to be clearly recognized. What are they?, he said.
He further added that non-interference in our home and internal affairs; our traditions, religion, customs, marriages, joys and sorrows and the like are our own affairs, and it does not concern them. They may take care of their own affairs wherever they are. Similarly, Afghanistan will pursue it national interests.
Talking about Concern in external relations, president Karzai said that Afghanistan understands that it needs to have good relations with its neighbors. As we sign agreements with the US and the West and befriend them, we will also maintain a friendship with China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan, our two neighbors, close and hearted friends, with whom we will maintain friendship at any costs. We reassure them that we will not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against them or anybody else.
"They bring us money; train our soldiers and police, and provide security for the home of the lion. The lion does not have leisure time to do all these things. They should protect his surroundings but should not touch the lion's home. They should protect the four boundaries of the jungle. They should train our police, America 's assistances will be beneficial to Afghanistan , as will be of the West and other countries," he said.
The grand assembly that commenced on Wednesday amid tight security in Kabul is discussing a strategic cooperation agreement with the United States and a mechanism for peace negotiation with Afghan militants.
A day earlier, the government announced closure of all educational institutions in Kabul for two days as part of security measures for the long-awaited meeting being attended by more than 2,000 people, including sitting and former parliamentarians.
Karzai told the gathering that Afghanistan was prepared to sign the agreement with the US, but it must stop night raids and building parallel institutions in the country. He said they would allow the US to establish military bases only if it was ready to meet Afghanistan's conditions.
He believed the bases were in the interest of Afghanistan and US assistance essential for training Afghan forces. The president once again assuaged neighbors' concerns over the deal and said Afghanistan saw its national interests in having good relations with them.
America might be more powerful and richer, but "we are lions", he remarked.
Karzai said such agreements were also being discussed with England, France, European Union and Australia, but the pact with the US had a difference. "We want our national sovereignty today at all costs," the president said.
He asked attendees for proposals on the strategic agreement and a mechanism for peace talks with the rebels. "Afghans know terrorism is not in their villages and houses and the war against it must be fought where it has safe heavens," he said.
Karzai called the Jirga as an advisory forum and assured Parliament that the accord would be sent to it for approval after going through the legal process.
"Everyone can criticize the government as we have the freedom of expression in the country," Karzai said in reference to former Taliban ambassador Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef's denunciation of his administration.
The whole world had benefited from the Afghan jihad that made the US the sole superpower, united Germany and helped Pakistan emerge as a nuclear power, Karzai said, adding the second round of the security transition would begin in the next few days.
The government needed advice whether to hold talks with Pakistan or the Taliban for lasting peace in the region, Karzai said, explaining the assassination of former president and top peace negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani, had dealt a blow to popular aspirations and confidence in the reconciliation process. Rabbani was killed in a suicide attack at his Kabul residence on Sept. 20, 2011.
However, Karzai said the desire for peace was still alive in their hearts and all Afghans wanted peace and reconciliation efforts to be reviewed. "We will act based on your deliberations and decisions," Karzai said, appreciating peace endeavors made by Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
In his hour-long speech, Karzai insisted on certain conditions in exchange for a US presence on military bases in his country beyond the 2014 troop withdrawal. He repeatedly called for a halt to house searches by foreign troops, an end to night raids, the dismantling of foreign-run detention facilities and respect for national sovereignty.
"The U.S. wants military installations from us. We will give those to them. But we have conditions for this. We will benefit from this. Our soldiers will be trained. Our police will be trained, we will benefit from their money."