South Asia News
US agrees to let Afghan forces take lead in night raids
Apr 8, 2012, 12:14 GMT
Kabul - The US army agreed on Sunday to let Afghan forces take the lead in night raid operations, which have remained a source of bitter tension between the Afghan president and his Western backers.
Under the new agreement, only Afghan forces are allowed to search residential houses and private compounds 'if necessary, and as part of the conduct of special operations.'
The agreement said US forces will support only 'as required or requested'.
Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Commander of the US and NATO Forces General John Allen signed the agreement in Kabul.
'From today onwards, special operations are Afghanized and are being conducted by Afghan Special Operations Unit which includes defense and interior ministries, intelligence department in coordination with Afghan judiciary,' Wardak said at the press meet.
'Afghanistan's government is taking all necessary measures to carry out all special operations in constitution's framework, and to establish judicial, prosecution and investigative mechanism in accordance with current country's law.'
The agreement is key to finalizing negotiations on a long-term strategic partnership agreement between the US and Afghan governments that will set the tone of American involvement after 2014 when NATO forces are set to leave.
Gen. Allen during the signing said the agreement would 'mean that Afghan forces. not foreign forces. are now in the lead for two of the most critical aspects of maintaining Afghan security: capturing the terrorists that threaten innocent Afghan civilians. and keeping those terrorists behind bars where they belong.'
The agreement also stipulates that the Afghan government would establish 'judicial, prosecution, and investigative mechanisms capable of issuing timely and operationally secure judicial authorizations to conduct special operations missions against persons who are reasonably suspected of meeting the criteria for prosecution or detention under Afghan laws.'
Until now, no such authorization was required.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for an end to night raids. NATO maintained such operations were key to capturing Taliban commanders.
Last week, in an interview with dpa, Allen said all night operations were conducted alongside Afghan commandoes.
He also said foreign troops on about 89 to 90 per cent of all their military operations are partnered with Afghan national security forces (ANSF) and Afghans lead about 40 per cent of all conventional operations.
The NATO-led military alliance says that almost 90 per cent of the operations see no shots fired. Last month, Allen told the US Senate that 2,200 night raids were carried out last year.
However, Karzai has remained skeptical about the night raids given the growing anti-Western sentiment among Afghan civilians.
Afghanistan has said the 'Afghanization' of night raids and the handing over of US-run prisons were pre-conditions for the strategic partnership.
A US Embassy spokesman in Kabul said that the agreement would pave the way for the partnership deal to be finalized before the NATO summit in Chicago in May.
'We hope that with signing of both these agreements this prepares the way for realizing a strategic partnership with the government and people of Afghanistan,' said Gavin Sundwall.
'I can not comment on ongoing negotiations. We hope that we and the government of Afghanistan will conclude our negotiations before the Chicago Summit in May,' he added.
An agreement was signed between Afghanistan and the United States last month on the transfer of prisoners and detention facilities to Afghan control.
Allen praised Afghan Special Forces saying they were courageous, capable and committed. 'I can tell you first-hand that Afghanistan is well on its way to fielding the very finest special operations forces in the region,' he said.
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