A security pact at stake, US ignores Karzai's jabs

By BRADLEY KLAPPER | November 18, 2011 | 1:10 PM EST

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, Afghan first vice president Qasim Fahim, right, and chairman Sebghatullah Mujadidi, attend a loya jirga, or grand council, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011. The Afghan president told tribal elders on Wednesday that any ongoing partnership with the United States would need to include an end to widely unpopular nighttime raids by NATO and on the international forces handing over control of detention centers to Afghan troops. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. policymakers aren't too happy with what they're hearing from an Afghan political gathering where a long-term security pact with Washington is being discussed.

But they're likely to bless the outcome so long as the gathering endorses an American military presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

President Hamid Karzai's began the meeting by demanding the end of U.S. night raids after American combat troops leave.

U.S. officials see the raids as important to fighting the Taliban insurgency.

They're looking past Karzai's comments for now, knowing they need his support.

Despite Karzai's unpredictability, they still see the Afghan leader as the best partner against al-Qaida and other Taliban extremists, and the best hope for Afghanistan's development.