The Wolesi Jirga on Sunday approved security accords with the US and NATO by overwhelming majority, but some lawmakers staged a walkout from the lower house in protest against the approval.
The new government signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States and a separate Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with NATO on Sept 30, a day after President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah were inaugurated.
The deals were sent to the lower house for approval as required by the country’s Constitution two weeks ago.
Abdul Qadir Zazi, who heads the house panel on international affairs, presented the two accords before the extraordinary session for a decision.
He told the house that the house’s 17 commissions had discussed the security agreements, with 11 panels approving the accords.
As Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahim asked lawmakers to vote on the accords, six MPs staged a walkout in protest against the deals.
One of them, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, told Pajhwok Afghan News the security deals were not in Afghanistan’s interest and their approval was treason.
“Voting in support of the agreements is fulfilling the wishes of Americans and bringing under question the country’s sovereignty ….today is a darkest day in Afghanistan’s history. Today all Afghans fell into the hands of invaders,” Khawasi said.
Maulvi Abdul Rahman Rahmani, who represents northern Balkh province, said with approval of the security accords, Afghanistan had lost its independence.
He strongly criticised part of the BSA providing immunity to American soldiers from prosecution in Afghan courts if they committed crimes here.
“There is a lot of difference between Afghanistan’s Islamic courts and the courts of an infidel country, this agreement is not acceptable to us, that’s why we staged the walkout,” he said.
However, a majority of the lawmakers called the two agreements in Afghanistan’s interest. Kabul MP Shukria Barakzai said the deal between Kabul and Washington was not a matter of choice, but a matter of need and the deal should complete all the legal process.
“This is the deal that paves the ground for a long-term support for Afghanistan forces, who could face numerous financial and equipment problems if the deal does not complete all the legal stages,” she said.
The outspoken lawmaker said the BSA in no way amounted to foreign invasion because foreign troops were stationed in several Islamic countries.
MP Sharifullah Kamawal called the security deals a big achievement for Afghanistan. He believed had Afghanistan reached similar agreements years ago, there would have been fewer problems today.
He said Afghanistan under its current circumstances needed support of a powerful country like the US. “An agreement means give and take and the same is happened in this deal.”
Of 156 MPs present, six staged a walkout, five voted in opposition and three votes were declared invalid and the rest voted in favour of the deals.
The international combat mission in Afghanistan was to conclude at the end of this year. The new agreements allow the US and NATO to keep a total of 12,000 troops in Afghanistan next year to support local forces.
However, the agreements come after US officials said President Barack Obama had approved new guidelines allowing American troops to engage Taliban fighters, not just Al Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan. Obama’s decision also means the US can conduct air support when needed.