Delegates at an Afghan national assembly have endorsed a proposal by Afghanistan’s president for a long-term security pact with the United States, officials said.
More than two-thirds of the delegates said on Saturday they will support President Hamid Karzai’s call for a security agreement, but only if the US accepts certain conditions.
The pact will govern the presence of US troops after 2014, when most international forces are to have left the country or moved into support roles.
The conditions include an end to night-time kill-and-capture raids by foreign troops, which the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation says has been the most effective weapon so far against the anti-government insurgency.
The meeting’s findings are not binding, but they are likely to bolster Karzai’s negotiating position. More than 2,000 people attended the national assembly, known as the Loya Jirga.
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Kabul, said: “There is a consensus emerging to allow the US a permanent or semi-permanent presence in Afghanistan after 2014. There is even some sympathy towards the US, saying Karzai was too hard on them by saying they should stop their night raids.
Smith continued: “Some in the jirga recognise that these night raids are necessary and are used by the US to take terror suspects out of homes and villages.
“On the Taliban there is less consensus. There are mixed views on whether the government should go forward with talks with the Taliban; some people say they should, some people say talks with conditions, and others say the Afghan government should be talking to Pakistan.”
While the assembly was in session, two Afghan police officers were killed in a clash with foreign troops conducting a night raid southwest of Kabul early on Saturday, police and military officials said.
Saturday’s incident occurred when soldiers, who were involved in a night raid which had not been co-ordinated with the police, ignored orders to halt when spotted by officers in Ghazni province, said Zorawar Zahid, Ghazni police chief.
“Foreign troops were planning to conduct night raids but a firefight took place when they failed [to obey] police orders to stop,” Zahid said.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said a combined coalition and Afghan force called in air support after being fired on at a checkpoint by rocket-propelled grenades, mortar bombs and guns.
“After multiple attempts to identify themselves as friendly forces, the security force was unable to stop the threat and
engaged the checkpoint in self-defence, killing two individuals,” the ISAF said in a statement.
The incident has added to Afghan pressure to stop the night raids. In the past, Karzai has repeatedly said he wants the raids to end.