US, Afghanistan in Final Discussions on Night-Time Operations

Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai has told VOA that Kabul and Washington are in "final discussions" on an agreement to end U.S. military night-time raids in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai continually has called for an end to such operations, which he says result in civilian casualties and are an invasion of privacy.  U.S. officials insist night raids are crucial in targeting the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

Mosazai said he hopes the agreement would be signed "in the near future," opening the way to finalizing the terms of a pact that would define the U.S. presence in Afghanistan once all foreign combat troops leave the country by 2014.

The two countries are pushing to sign the long-term strategic partnership before or by the NATO summit to be held in Chicago, Illinois, in May.

Mosazai was on a two-day visit to Washington with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, who held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the strategic deal.

The talks came in the wake of the killing of 16 Afghan civilians in Kandahar, allegedly by a U.S. soldier during a March 11 shooting spree.

On the issue of peace with the Taliban, Mosazai tells VOA the Afghan government is at the "confidence-building stage" for talks with the insurgent group.

He said the Taliban needs to make a "clear statement" that they support the country's political process, a peace process and final negotiations between Afghans for peace.  

The Taliban has repeatedly refused to negotiate with the Karzai government, calling it a "puppet regime."

Mosazai added that the government of Afghanistan has agreed to the potential transfer of consenting Guantanamo detainees to Qatar, but that it is now up the the U.S. government to decide how to move forward.

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