Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged the country’s tribal leaders on Thursday to back a contentious security pact that would keep thousands of American troops there for years, even as he sought to delay ratification of the deal and lamented his sour relationship with the U.S.
“My trust with America is not good. I don’t trust them, and they don’t trust me,” he said at the beginning of the four-day meeting with the grand assembly of top politicians and tribal elders, NBC reports. “During the past 10 years, I have fought with them and they have made propaganda against me.”
The comments to the Loya Jirga of elders, came hours after Secretary of State John Kerry said a final draft of the security deal regarding troop levels had been reached. The proposal, which awaits approval by both the U.S. and Afghanistan, would not let the U.S. to conduct combat operations in the country after 2014 but would allow between 10,000 to 15,000 troops, between the U.S. and NATO, to remain in Afghanistan up to 2024, specifically to train and equip Afghan security forces.
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Karzai pledged to support the new bilateral security agreement that would reportedly keep up to 15,000 foreign troops there after 2014, but added he would postpone signing the accord until after the country’s elections next April, in which Karzai is not seeking reelection. That’s a blow to Washington, which wants an agreement signed quickly so the U.S. and NATO can begin planning their post-2014 presence in the country.