NATO night raids in Afghanistan must stop: Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Afghanistan will not sign a strategic partnership deal with the US until NATO-led night raids stop.

Updated: Dec 25, 2011, 09:37 AM IST

Kabul: Afghan President Hamid Karzai said
on Sunday Afghanistan will not sign a strategic partnership deal
with the US until NATO-led night raids and house searches
stop.

The president`s remarks came after he heard back from a
government-appointed delegation assigned to look into civilian
casualties sustained during recent NATO airstrikes and night
time raids.

"The president stressed that the strategic partnership
document will not be signed until the night raids and house
searches stop," his office said in a statement.

"After hearing the report by the delegation, the
president said that the arbitrary operations and house
searches by NATO have become a serious problem between
Afghanistan and NATO forces and that this has been one of the
main obstacles on signing the strategic partnership deal with
the United States."

The strategic partnership document being negotiated with
Washington will govern the relationship between American
troops and the Afghan government after the scheduled
withdrawal of combat troops in 2014.

Night raids have been a persistent sticking point, but
Karzai`s refusal to sign until the operations end is his
bluntest yet.

NATO has defended the operations as the safest way of
targeting insurgent leaders, insisting they will continue but
with the increasing involvement of Afghan special forces.

It insists that in 85 per cent of night raids no shot is
fired and they cause less than one percent of civilian
casualties.

But Karzai has led public criticism of the controversial
raids, saying they endanger lives and harass local
communities, and repeatedly called on US-led international
forces to stop entering Afghan homes.

The delegation appointed by Karzai investigated NATO
airstrikes in Kandahar and Kapisa provinces in which several
civilians died, and also a raid in Paktia in which the
pregnant wife of the provincial anti-drugs chief was killed.

Lead investigator Mohammad Tahir Safi said: "We want
civilian casualties to stop. We cannot tolerate any more.

"NATO-led ISAF forces have killed Afghan civilians for no
reason."

According to the United Nations, the number of civilians
killed in violence in Afghanistan rose by 15 per cent in the
first six months of this year to 1,462, with insurgents blamed
for 80 per cent of the killings.

There are around 140,000 international troops in
Afghanistan fighting a decade-long Taliban insurgency
alongside Afghan government forces.

PTI