Afghanistan and the United States have reached a compromise on the controversial issue of night raids on Afghan homes by international forces.The agreement gives Afghan authorities veto power over planned operations and more say in the treatment of detainees.
The memorandum of understanding authorizing Afghan-led night raid special operations was signed Sunday in front of reporters by Afghan Defense Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak and the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen.
The Afghan defense minister says the agreement will take effect immediately.
He says as of today, special operations become Afghan-owned and will be conducted by the special contingent of the ministry of defense, ministry of interior and national security directorate in accord with Afghan judicial bodies.
Night raids had been a constant source of tension between the Afghan government and U.S. military. Afghan President Hamid Karzai called previously for an end to all international night raids, saying they are provocative when carried out by foreign troops. But NATO commanders have said the operations have proven extremely effective in apprehending Taliban insurgents and al-Qaida commanders.
The compromise reached continues to authorize night raids under Afghan leadership. General Allen says it also stipulates measures to ensure that special operations be conducted in ways that adhere to the rule of law.
“With this memorandum of understanding, the United States has not only formalized the Afghan special forces lead in special operations missions but has also agreed to ensure that those missions are conducted in a manner fully consistent with the Afghan constitution and Afghan laws,” he said.
Under the deal, Afghan and supporting U.S. forces are required to apply to an Afghan judge for a warrant before operations are approved. Also, Afghan authorities will have control over prisoners taken in night raids and will decide whether to allow U.S. interrogators access to detainees.
Recently the two sides resolved another contentious issue when they signed a deal transferring Afghan detainees to Kabul's custody.
General Allen says these two agreements remove the last major obstacles to developing a long-term strategic partnership pact in advance of a May NATO Summit in Chicago. The partnership pact will authorize a reduced U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after the planned 2014 withdrawal of most Western combat troops.
The signing comes at a time of heightened sensitivity in Afghanistan over the presence of foreign troops after a series of incidents, including the massacre of 17 Afghan villagers blamed on a U.S. soldier, and the inadvertent burning of Qurans at an American military base.