Afghanistan's Grand Assembly Gambit in Favor of Alliance With the U.S.

Last week President Hamid Karzai called on the Grand Assembly or Loya Jirga of Afghanistan seeking consultation, advice and recommendation concerning strategic agreement with the United States. The Grand Assembly readily recommended that the government may sign the strategic agreement with the United States. It signifies that the people of Afghanistan are satisfied with the United States in Afghanistan. More importantly, the Afghans reject the roles of Iran and Pakistan, and have trust in a formal strategic agreement with the United States as a protection against hegemony by its neighbors Iran and Pakistan.

The convening of the Grand Assembly is a historical and traditional approach in the traditional process of democracy in Afghanistan to reach a national consensus and agreement on issues of great national importance. Although the edict of the Grand Assembly is not legally binding, nevertheless, the head of the state relegates those important decisions to the people and thus seeks the advice of the Grand Assembly or what is known as Loya Jirga. The Grand Assembly is not a sitting body but it is called upon by the head of the state (former kings and presidents) on special occasions. In the 1700s, the Grand Assembly proclaimed Ahmed Shah Baba as (king) head of the state. During World War II, the allied forces demanded that Afghanistan turn over all citizens of Germany who were residing in Afghanistan at that time. The Grand Assembly was called upon and it rendered its advice that the government of Afghanistan takes upon itself the responsibility of safely transporting the German citizens from Afghanistan to Germany. The Afghan government got the consent of the Allied Forces for safe passage and transported the German citizens under Afghan protection. During 2001, President George Bush demanded that the Afghan government either turn over Osama bin Laden to the United States or have him deported from Afghanistan. Mullah Omar, then the head of the state, called on the Grand Assembly for advice. The Grand Assembly recommended that the government of Afghanistan ask Bin Laden to leave Afghanistan. However, Mullah Omar refused. This was the first time that the head of state did not abide by the advice of the Grand Assembly. Mullah Omar's decision drew U.S. invasion and the demise of the Taliban from the seat of the government.

President Karzai's call upon the Grand Assembly legitimized his government's decision to sign the strategic agreement with the United States. He also addressed the 2200 members of the Assembly and assured them that he will sign the strategic agreement in conformity with the tradition of freedom, honesty, dignity and pride that the Afghans are known historically. He assured the assembly that the Afghan prowess is that of a lion in the jungle as the king and that there will be no compromise on its honor and dignity. Those statements drew enormous emotional response and approval by the Assembly who are aware of their country's heroic resistance to the Soviet invasion in the80s and their three Anglo-Afghan wars. And yet they are also weary of over 30 years of war and occupation by 40 members of the NATO. The Afghans view this strategic agreement as a turning point in the long struggle of terrorism and Pakistan's incessant interference, an end of the war and the beginning of a reconstruction process socially, politically and physically that will bring democracy, civility and an end to the war. Moreover, the final signing of the strategic agreement between Afghanistan and the United states will lead to speedier withdrawal of U.S. troops and a strong message to Pakistan and Iran to say out of Afghanistan's affairs. It will end the Taliban intrigue and the beginning of renaissance in Afghanistan.