What is a loya jirga? Afghanistan's most pivotal jirgas since 2002.

A loya jirga, or grand assembly, is really just a traditional meeting that serves to bring local leaders from all over the country together to discuss a critical issue during a time of instability.

While the meetings are seen as a critical part of Afghan political life, they are a relatively rare occurrence.

In the past 300 years, Afghanistan has had fewer than 20 loya jirgas, about a quarter of which have taken place in the past decade. But as the Afghan political system grows stronger and develops democratic institutions such as the parliament, many now question their value altogether.

Here are the four most pivotal jirgas of the past decade and what came out of the meetings:

Ahmad Masood/Reuters
Members of the Loya Jirga stand up as the national anthem plays during the inauguration of Loya Jirga in Kabul, Afghainstan, Wednesday.

1. June 2002 - Karzai becomes president

After the American-led invasion and the fall of the Taliban regime, Afghans gathered in Kabul for an emergency loya jirga to elect a transitional government.

Perhaps foreshadowing the problems that would haunt the country of the next decade, warlords – predominately from the Northern Alliance – who were not on guest list were allowed to enter the delegation. Human Rights Watch reported that they monitored the event and intimidated many of the delegates.

At the end of the conference, Hamid Karzai was sworn in as president and 14 ministers were appointed to head the transitional government.

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