Security has seldom been so tight in the Afghan capital
15 November 2011 Last updated at 16:59
Security forces are on high alert in the Afghan capital, Kabul, ahead of a traditional assembly of elders and leaders, due to begin on Wednesday.
The Taliban have threatened to attack the gathering, or loya jirga.
On Monday the Taliban said it had obtained a confidential government security plan for the jirga.
On the same day a suicide bomber was shot dead in an attempted attack on the tented site where 2,000 people will meet.
The BBC’s Orla Guerin in Kabul says that even before it begins, the loya jirga is under attack – from political opponents and insurgents. The Taliban say anyone who attends will be a target.
President Hamid Karzai will host the meeting which will discuss reconciliation efforts with the Taliban after 10 years of war, and relations between Afghanistan and the US.
Correspondents say the talks will be held amid intense security – a reminder of the constant danger posed by the insurgents even in the capital.
The Taliban on Monday published what it said was the government’s security plans for the meeting
The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says that roads leading to the jirga area are blocked to the public and there are far more checkpoints and security checks than usual.
Our correspondent says that houses in areas close to the gathering have been searched and thousands of police and plain-clothed security personnel have been deployed alongside mobile police patrols and intelligence service vehicles.
Extra forces have also been deployed on the outskirts of Kabul – people are unable to enter the city without showing their identity cards.
Diplomats in Kabul say President Karzai will try to secure a strong mandate from the gathering as he pursues a controversial agreement with the United States on the strategic partnership which will determine the Afghan-US relationship after 2014.
But critics say without an agreement to discuss, the gathering is pointless.
“I think it will certainly be another jirga where people will drink tea and have lunch and discuss [things] – and at the end President Karzai will declare victory. This is the case in Afghanistan, unfortunately,” political analyst Haroon Mir told the BBC.
Officials say the decisions made at this jirga will not be legally binding. Parliament will have the final say.
Critics claim President Karzai could use the assembly to seek support for a constitutional change that would allow him to run for a third term.
Washington on Monday voiced “confidence” in the jirga, saying it trusted the meeting would consolidate close US-Afghan ties.
“The US and Afghanistan are close partners and allies, and we have great confidence that this loya jirga is going to reaffirm that strong partnership,” state department spokesman Mark Toner said.
The meeting comes as US-led combat troops start leaving Afghanistan before a full withdrawal in 2014.