Troop immunity threatens to sink US-Afghan deal

President Hamid Karzai and US Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday that talks on the future of US forces in Afghanistan were stuck on the key issue of US troop immunity.

Kerry extended his stay in Kabul to try to thrash out a long-delayed security pact that would allow between 5,000 and 10,000 US troops to remain in Afghanistan to fight Al-Qaeda and train the national army.

But he said that a major sticking point in efforts to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) was the issue of which country would try any US soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.

"One issue that is outstanding (is) the issue of jurisdiction," he said, rejecting the widely-used term "immunity" as accused US troops would still stand trial in America.

"We need to say that if the issue cannot be resolved, unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security agreement."

Karzai said that a national assembly of tribal elders would be called to discuss whether foreign soldiers could be given immunity from prosecution in Afghanistan, as the issue was "above government authority".

"After several months of negotiation, and intense talks yesterday and today, we have reached a series of agreements," Karzai told reporters at a joint press conference in Kabul.

"The BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement) has a lot of items, one is about immunity for foreign and US soldiers -- we didn't have a united opinion on this issue."