KABUL, Afghanistan — All special operations — including night raids — will be led by Afghan security forces, under a deal signed Sunday between the United States and Afghanistan.
The agreement marks what Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, called "the second major milestone in Afghan sovereignty."
The transfer of responsibility for the Bagram detention facility north of Kabul last month and the "Afghanization" of special operations were two issues that Afghan government wanted to settle before signing a long-term strategic partnership with the United States.
"After today, only Afghan forces can search residential houses and private compounds within the framework of special operations," said Afghanistan's defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak. "Signing this document is a fundamental step towards strengthening Afghan national sovereignty."
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Special forces operations by foreign troops have been a long-standing source of tension between President Hamid Karzai and the United States. The night raids have been particularly controversial, causing serious offense in this deeply conservative society and frequently resulting in civilian casualties.
Sunday's agreement says that Afghan special forces units will lead operations with the support of U.S. forces.
Allen said he believed that Afghan forces were of a good enough standard to conduct the special operations.
"I have seen them in action. I have seen their courage. I have seen their capabilities and their commitment," said Allen.
However, some local military commentators were skeptical and said that handing over responsibility for special operations responsibility to Afghan troops was a mistake,
"Afghan security forces are not capable of conducting the night raids because they don't have the required level of training that their international counterparts have, said General Amrullah Aman, a defense analyst.
Sayed Farukh Shah, a senator from Afghanistan's northern Faryab province, told McClatchy that night raids were an effective tool for fighting insurgents, "but the operators have to be trained to conduct them properly, or they will endanger innocent lives."
(Safi is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
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