US and Afghan negotiators have struck a security deal that will keep US troops in Afghanistan through 2024, while keeping billions of aid dollars pumping into Kabul, John Kerry announced yesterday. Hamid Karzai today presented the deal to the Loya Jirga, Afghanistan's grand council of elders, urging them to accept it—which, the AP points out, represents a huge about-face for the Afghan president, who had promised to leave the US' status up to the new president Afghanistan will elect in April. But Karzai did say today that the actual signing should occur after the vote.
In hopes of winning over the council, President Obama sent a letter vowing to respect "Afghan sovereignty" and to raid Afghan homes only under "extraordinary circumstances." But the US will retain the power to conduct those raids, and its troops will be immune from Afghan prosecution, two key concessions that the US wasn't able to secure in similar negotiations with Iraq back in 2011, the New York Times points out. Nor will Obama have to apologize for American military missteps, as one Karzai aide insisted he should. Kerry says Karzai never actually asked for that. "I mean, it's just not even on the table." (Read more Loya Jirga stories.)