Karzai hints at flexibility in Afghan-US troop talks

Updated 27 November 2012
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Karzai hints at flexibility in Afghan-US troop talks

KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai hinted yesterday that his government would be flexible in negotiating “sensitive” issues in a new security pact with the United States.
Karzai did not spell out what issues he was referring to, but one of the most sensitive questions involves immunity from local prosecution for US troops remaining in Afghanistan after NATO forces withdraw in 2014.
Washington recalled all its troops from Iraq after Baghdad refused to grant US soldiers immunity, and Karzai has in the past warned there could be similar problems in Afghanistan.
But in a speech to industrialists and businessmen in Kabul, the president suggested that a deal would be reached.
“With the Americans we will make a deal in which neither the skewer burns nor the kebab,” he said, referring to an Afghan proverb on a settlement, which benefits both parties equally.
“Where they are sensitive, we shouldn’t touch too much, but we should consider our interests 100 percent,” he said.
But Karzai also accused the United States of using predictions by the Western media and analysts of post-2014 chaos to put pressure on his government “to surrender to their demands.” He vowed to “stand firm.”
Negotiations on the security pact were launched this month but negotiators said the immunity issue was not discussed in the first round.
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 under consideration 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.


North Korea demolishes nuke test site with series of blasts

Updated 3 min 7 sec ago
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North Korea demolishes nuke test site with series of blasts

  • The planned closing was previously announced by leader Kim Jong Un ahead of his planned summit with US President Donald Trump
  • The North's decision to close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has generally been seen as a welcome gesture by Kim to set a positive tone ahead of the summit.

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea: North Korea carried out what it said is the demolition of its nuclear test site Thursday, setting off a series of explosions over several hours in the presence of foreign journalists.
The explosions at the nuclear test site deep in the mountains of the North's sparsely populated northeast were centered on three tunnels into the underground site and a number of observation towers in the surrounding area.
The planned closing was previously announced by leader Kim Jong Un ahead of his planned summit with US President Donald Trump next month.
The North's decision to close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has generally been seen as a welcome gesture by Kim to set a positive tone ahead of the summit. Even so, it is not an irreversible move and would need to be followed by many more significant measures to meet Trump's demands for real denuclearization.
By bringing in the foreign media, mainly television networks, the North is apparently hoping to have images of the closing — including explosions to collapse tunnel entrances — broadcast around the world. The group included an Associated Press Television crew.
The North did not invite international inspectors to the ceremony, which limits its value as a serious concession.