Afghanistan and US sign 'night raid' deal

Agreement purports to give Afghan military units greater control of controversial operations unpopular with locals.

    Afghanistan and US sign 'night raid' deal
    Night raids have been a major hurdle in charting the long term relations between two countries [Al Jazeera/NATO]

    The Afghan government has reached a crucial deal with the US to take control of controversial night raids from American forces.

    During a meeting of his national security council on Sunday, President Hamid Karzai approved a memorandum of understanding on "Afghanisation of special operations on Afghan soil," the president's office said in a statement.

    The document was signed on Sunday by General Abdul Rahim Wardak, Afghan defence minister, and the US commander of NATO forces, General John Allen.

    "Today we are one step closer to the establishment of the US-Afghan strategic partnership. Most importantly, today we are one step closer to our shared goal and vision of a secure and sovereign Afghanistan," Allen said at the deal's signing.

    Details were not immediately released, but the name of the memorandum suggests that it will apply to a range of quick-strike raids in villages, not just night-time operations.

    Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Kabul, said the agreement will give the lead of night raids to the Afghan forces.

    “NATO will tell you many of the raids are already led by Afghan forces, while maybe co-ordinated with foreign help," he said.

    "But this agreement will essentially mean that the person going to the front door of an Afghan house will be an Afghan.

    “This is the last major stumbling block in signing the strategic agreement” expected in advance of a major conference on Afghanistan in Chicago in May.

    The strategic agreement will chart the long term relations between the countries after US forces withdraw by 2014.

    Night raids have been a constant source of tension between the Afghan government and US military.

    The Afghan president has called previously for all international night raids to cease, saying that they were provocative when carried out by the foreign troops.

    The US military has said such operations are key to capturing Taliban fighters.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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