Thu, Jan 22, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Kabul seeks control over NATO

IN CHARGE Addressing the opening session of parliament, the Afghan leader said that the US and NATO had ignored his calls to stop airstrikes in civilian areas


The Afghan government has sent NATO headquarters a draft agreement that would give Afghanistan more control over future NATO deployments in the country — including the positioning of some US troops, officials said.

The draft technical agreement would establish rules of conduct for NATO-led troops in Afghanistan and require that additional NATO troops and their location be approved by the Afghan government.

The agreement — an attempt by Afghanistan to gain more control over international military operation — would also prohibit NATO troops from conducting any searches of Afghan homes, a copy of the draft said..

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who met US General David Petraeus on Tuesday and discussed how to prevent civilian deaths and the role of Afghan forces in US missions, told legislators that his government sent the draft agreement to NATO about two weeks ago.

As the head of US Central Command, Petraeus oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Addressing parliament at its opening session, a frustrated Karzai said the US and other Western military allies have not heeded his calls to stop airstrikes in civilian areas in Afghanistan.

He warned that the fight against militants cannot be won without popular support from Afghans.

The Afghan president urged the US and NATO to follow a new military strategy in Afghanistan that would increase cooperation with Afghan forces and officials to prevent the killing and maiming of civilians.

“We will not accept civilian casualties on our soil during the fight against terrorism and we cannot tolerate it,” Karzai told parliament.

US and NATO-led troops say that militants deliberately use civilians as human shields in their fight against foreign and Afghan troops, and there have been numerous disputes over whether some of those killed in operations were civilians or militants.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai said the letter from the Afghan government has been shared with NATO countries, but no discussions about it have yet taken place.

“The bottom line here is we are very much willing to engage in discussion to see how we can, in cooperation with them [Afghan authorities], improve how we do business,” Appathurai said.

The draft technical agreement calls for the deployment of additional NATO troops and their location carried out only with Afghan government approval; full coordination between Afghan and NATO defense authorities “at the highest possible level for all phases of military and ground operations”; and house searches and detention operations to be carried out only by Afghan security forces.

If approved, the agreement would apply to all 48,000 NATO-led forces who operate under the International Security Assistance Force, including some 17,000 Americans.

It was not clear if the agreement would apply to the separate US coalition and its 15,000 US troops, US spokesman Colonel Greg Julian said.

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