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Afghan deal on night raids presages longterm US presence

The deal increases the chances that the US and Afghanistan will strike a strategic partnership that would keep American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

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New recruits in the Afghan army learn how to shoot an M-16 rifle during weapon training in Kabul, Sunday.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

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A new agreement between American and Afghan officials has placed long-controversial night raids under the control of local forces.

The compromise comes as a substantial diplomatic breakthrough that will pave the way for a strategic partnership agreement between the two nations. The future of night raids had become a sticking point in negotiations for an agreement that will keep the US committed to Afghanistan for another decade after the 2014 withdrawal deadline.

The partnership, which now appears likely, would keep a contingent of US forces in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 withdrawal date. The agreement would also affirm continuing US economic assistance and determine the size of the Afghan military, among other issues. The strategic partnership is expected to be finalized before the NATO summit on Afghanistan that will take place in Chicago this May.

Night raids are operations usually carried out by special forces after dark to capture or kill members of the insurgency. The raids will still continue, but they will be under the control of Afghan forces, with US involvement. The change is likely to please a large majority of Afghans who viewed night raids as a violation of their national sovereignty and disrespectful to their culture.

“The government has been asking to stop the night raids for many years,” says Mahmoud Khan, a member of parliament from Kandahar. “Night raids have had a big impact on this war in Afghanistan, both positive and negative. Because of the night raids, many of the enemies were defeated in many places, but in some night raids, many civilians were killed.”

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