KABUL - Afghan traditional leaders will meet next week to decide whether to support a security pact that could allow some US troops to stay in the country after 2014, an official said Tuesday.

Around 2,500 tribal elders and other civilian leaders are expected to take part in the “loya jirga” starting November 21 to decide whether to accept the draft Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the US.

“The loya jirga in which 2,500 people from different catagories participate will be held next Thursday,” Abdul Khaliq Hussieni Pashaee, a spokesman from the jirga preparation commission, told AFP.

“We have finalised the lists and all preparations are complete, the delegates are going to start coming to Kabul in a couple of days,” he said, adding the jirga was expected to last four days.

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 on 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 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 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.

On Monday the Taliban, whose government was toppled by a US-led invasion in 2001, warned members of the assembly they would be punished as “traitors” if they endorsed the deal.

Washington had been pushing for the agreement to be signed by the end of October to allow the US-led NATO coalition to plan the withdrawal of its 87,000 combat troops by December 2014.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s intelligence service has abandoned its investigation into the murder of a group of civilians after being refused access to US special forces soldiers suspected of involvement, according to a document obtained by Reuters.

Seventeen men disappeared after being detained in US raids in Wardak province between October 2012 and February 2013. Bodies of 10 of the men were found by residents in shallow graves within several hundred meters of the US soldiers’ base.

Mystery surrounding their deaths has added tension to US-Afghan ties already strained over delays to a proposed security pact designed to define the future of US troops after most foreign forces leave the country by the end of next year.

In the report authored by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence agency, investigators said they had asked the United States for access to three US Green Berets and four Afghan translators working with them but were rebuffed.

“Despite many requests by NDS they have not cooperated. Without their cooperation this process cannot be completed,” said the report, which was originally published on September 23.

US military officials were not immediately available for comment but they have long said the Green Berets did not take part in, or turn a blind eye to, illegal killings in Wardak.

Under current rules, Afghan authorities have no right to charge US military personnel with crimes as they are immune from Afghan law under a decade-old military agreement.

Access to the American soldiers would have allowed NDS to establish if accusations put forward by Zakeria Kandahari, an Afghan translator working with the Green Berets, had substance.

The men were killed in Wardak’s Nerkh district, where a small unit of elite US Army special forces - known as an Operational Detachment-Alpha, or A Team - were based. US Army special forces are also known as Green Berets.

The investigation was launched after NDS arrested Kandahari who has himself been accused by Nerkh villagers and the NDS of involvement in the killings.

Human Rights Watch has called on the United States to investigate the incident fully.

“The US investigation should go beyond the people who carried out the killings and examine who may have assisted in the crimes or failed to take action to stop them,” a Human Rights legal adviser, Andrea Prasow, said.