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The truth about criminal jurisdiction over US troops in Afghanistan

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KerryDuring an Oct. 12 press conference in Kabul, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that under the pending U.S.-Afghan security agreement, the United States would retain exclusive jurisdiction over its service members for any crimes they commit in Afghanistan.

Kerry unfortunately misstated U.S. law, policy and practice. What's worse, he did so at a critical juncture in the negotiations for an agreement to enable American troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014. And he did this while standing next to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Kerry's misstatements undermined Karzai's ability to explain and advocate for the jurisdiction provisions at an upcoming loya jirga, or political assembly.

Here is what Kerry said:

"We have great respect for Afghan sovereignty. And we will respect it, completely … But where we have forces in any part of the world … in Japan, in Korea, in Europe … wherever our forces are found, they operate under the same standard. We are not singling out Afghanistan for any separate standard. We are defending exactly what the constitutional laws of the United States require."

Returning to the U.S., Kerry repeated his misstatement, claiming that there is "the question of who maintains jurisdiction over those Americans who would be (in Afghanistan after 2014). Needless to say, we are adamant it has to be the United States of America. That’s the way it is everywhere else in the world." This led The Washington Post to award Kerry "three Pinocchios," for statements containing "significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions."

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