KABUL  - The Taliban on Monday warned an upcoming elders assembly against endorsing a deal allowing US troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014, stating they would be punished as “traitors” if they did so. Around 2,500 tribal elders and civil leaders are expected to take part in an assembly known as a “Loya Jirga” this month, to decide whether to accept the draft Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the US.

The Taliban, who have led an insurgency against President Hamid Karzai’s government and its NATO military backers since being ousted from power in 2001, warned against accepting the pact.

“The Afghanistan Islamic Emirate warns all the participants that if they endorse this document, the Islamic Emirate will enlist all the participants as traitors and target each member individually,” the Taliban said in a statement. The draft pact was hammered out in Kabul last month by the US Secretary of State John Kerry. But he left without a final deal as Afghan President Hamid Karzai said only a jirga had the authority to decide the contentious issues.

These include a US demand to retain legal jurisdiction over its troops in Afghanistan, which would give them immunity from Afghan law. The request emerged as the main sticking point after Kerry’s visit. If approved by the assembly, tentatively set for November 19-21, the draft will be submitted to the Parliament.

If the agreement is passed by both Loya Jirga and Parliament, between 5,000 and 10,000 US troops would stay in Afghanistan to help fight al Qaeda remnants and train the national army.

The US had been pushing for the deal to be signed by the end of October to allow the NATO coalition to plan the withdrawal of its 87,000 combat troops by December 2014 after 13 years of fighting the Taliban insurgency.

The collapse of a similar security agreement with Iraq in 2011 led to the US pulling all its troops out of the country, which is currently suffering its worst sectarian violence since 2008.