Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday said that Afghan tribal elders must lay out the rules for immunity from prosecution for US soldiers who continue to be stationed in the country after their combat mission ends in 2014, reported dpa.
"The decision about their soldier's immunity, how it would be, on what law, in which conditions, or is their a need for immunity (at all) is a decision which the Afghan government cannot make," Karzai said after returning from a three-day visit to the United States.
"This is a decision of the people of Afghanistan. So it must be decided by a Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) of the people to see if they want to grant immunity or not and on what conditions," Karzai said.
In 2011, Karzai called a similar meeting of around 1,600 tribal elders across Afghanistan to decide on a strategic partnership with the United States. The delegates approved. Last year Karzai signed a long-term partnership deal with the US, which is separate from the bilateral security pact in negotiations right now.
"Americans told us that, if you don't give immunity for our soldiers, we are obligated to leave Afghanistan and keep no relation with you," Karzai told journalists in his fortified Kabul palace.
"So, we have to carefully measure balance between the two scales and, if we want their presence after 2014, they want us to give immunity for their soldiers," he added.
"How we grant, on which conditions we grant, the immunity, is a decision of the nation of Afghanistan through a Loya Jirga."
Current agreements between Afghanistan and nations with troops stationed in the country allow decisions about how soldiers who break laws will be prosecuted to be decided by the sending country.
But, with the NATO mandate expiring in 2014, a new agreement would have to be made, meaning any decision by Afghan elders would also need by be approved by the US.
A White House official last week said, ahead of Karzai's visit, that the US might withdraw all its soldiers. US media reports have said the troop levels could range from a few thousand to up to 20,000 soldiers.
NATO-led troops have began withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan and are due to end all combat missions and hand over security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
In the press meeting, Karzai also said that the US government agreed to finance and keep the current size of Afghan national security forces - which numbers around 352,000 personnel - up until at least 2017.
"The US government has agreed to keep financing and training the current number of Afghan national security forces until 2017. There will be no decrease in their number until 2017," he told reporters.
Earlier, a few Western military officials had suggested decreasing the number of Afghan forces after 2014 due to the high expense of maintaining such a huge force - the funding for which comes exclusively from US and NATO allies.