The traditional Loya Jirga, a congregation of more than 2000 delegates drawn form throughout the country, ended its four-day long deliberations in Kabul on Saturday issuing a 76-point resolution. The outcome of the Loya Jirga in terms of what the resolution calls for has largely been in line with expectations and predictions of observers and, interestingly enough, in keeping with the government and President Karzai's many long-held positions and opinions.
It is certainly a curious case that the Loya Jirga's participants and its final resolution have come to support and adopt exactly the same positions and views that the government and President Karzai have always maintained on many issues of contention between the government and the Western coalition: from the controversial nighttime raids to the issue of "parallel structures" of governance and onwards to the duration of the strategic agreement and from there all the way even to the location of American military bases on the Afghan soil, the resolution is a full-length mirror of the government and the president's long-held views, positions and wants.
On very few important issues, the Loya Jirga and its participants have deviated or been allowed to deviate from the positions and views of the government and the president. Point after point and issue after issue, the Loya Jirga's declaration mysteriously mirrors or, to be precise, indeed repeats the long-held positions and opinions of President Karzai and the government as if some invisible hand from the government side has written down the content of the resolution for the delegates of the Loya Jirga! After all, we cannot expect more than this when the president, in his opening speech to the Jirga and in order to give the delegates a perspective and make them understand the situation, had to use the language of metaphor and reduced the totality of this complicated issue to analogies from a jungle, its boundaries and its lions!
Certainly, more than the "consultations" and the advice put forward by the Loya Jirga, the government and the president have been much more interested in the Public Relations aspects of the whole affair and its potential to give the impression that the government has finally been able to renew its mandate with the people of Afghanistan at large.
To be sure, in both Afghan and foreign circles, the president and the Afghanistan's diplomatic machinery will, from now on, uphold the Jirga and its outcome as the proof of a new popular mandate that the government has received. In reality, the Loya Jirga has actually changed nothing in terms of bringing in new perspectives or pushing for a new policy course. As far as the government of Afghanistan is concerned, it is going back to business as usual.
The Loya Jirga, in its resolution, has expressed strong support for the strategic agreement with the United States that, among other things, would allow the U.S. to maintain a military presence inside Afghanistan long after 2014.
The resolution says that it has taken into consideration what it sees as Afghanistan's need to continued American and Western financial and military assistance. Although the Loya Jirga, through its resolution, announces that it is in favor of continuation of American military presence inside Afghanistan, it has made it clear that it is still against "permanent" military presence and, thus, has placed a caveat in this regard, requesting the government of Afghanistan to limit the tenure of the strategic agreement to ten years i.e. until a tentative date of 2024.
This request of the Loya Jirga is immaterial in the current situation since it has long been decided by both Afghan and American governments that the duration of the strategic agreement will be tentatively ten years.
The Loya Jirga's resolution, once again mirroring the long-held position of the president on two issues, calls for an end to nighttime raids in addition to prohibiting American and western forces from running detention centers and prisons on the Afghan soil.
These two issues have long been issues of controversy between the President Karzai and the American government and military. On the question of nighttime raids, the NATO-led ISAF has on numerous occasions maintained that it cannot abandon this strategy as it has proved to be very effective in eliminating the Taliban leaders and commanders and weakening the momentum of the insurgency.
The resolution also touches upon yet another issue that has long been a tough nut for President karzai to crack - namely the contentious issue of what the government calls "parallel structures" of governance, referring to ISAF and NATO-run Provincial Reconctruction Teams (PRTs) that provide security and implement developmental programs im many provinces across Afghanistan.
The issue of PRTs has long been a thorn in relations between President Karzai and the Western coalition in Afghanistan. On the issue of talks with Taliban, the Loya Jirga favors a new mechanism and paradigm of talks with Taliban stressing the importance of talks and allowing the two sides to explore paths of dialogue and negotiation.
There can be no doubt that President Karzai and the government, from now on, will have and use the Loya Jirga's endorsement as an ace card to strengthen the position of the government on both domestic and international platforms particularly in the upcoming second Bonn Conference.
Inside Afghanistan, President Karzai believes that, as a matter of historical judgment, he will now stand cleared before the opinions and judgments of future governments and generations after fulfilling a historical responsibility of calling in a Loya Jirga.
In addition, the Loya Jirga and its resolution and favorable outcomes have provided the besieged and cornered president and his team an opportunity to secure for themselves an approving stamp in public eyes on many critical issues that are sure to be raised in the upcoming Bonn Conference.
Many of the issues discussed and approved during the Loya Jirga will likely be raised by the President Karzai and his team in the second Bonn conference. Having secured an endorsement from the traditional Loya Jirga, the president believes he will be on a much stronger platform and have greater leeway to push these positions and wants in the upcoming conference. Issues such as the PRTs as "parallel structures of governance" and the president's determination to get them disbanded will most likely be raised by the president in the second Bonn conference.