The Afghan government and the U.S. forces signed an agreement in Kabul Sunday afternoon to hand over all special operations including the controversial night raid operations from U.S. and NATO forces to Afghan soldiers, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.
Afghan Defense Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak (R) exchanges agreement with General John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, during a joint news press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 8, 2012. The Afghan government and the U.S. forces signed an agreement in Kabul Sunday afternoon to hand over all special operations including the controversial night raid operations from U.S. and NATO forces to Afghan soldiers, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. [Ahmad Massoud/Xinhua]
A joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) named Afghanization of Special Operations on Afghan Soil was inked by Afghan Defense Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak and General John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan.
"From today onwards Afghan Special Operations Unit which is comprised of Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and National Directorate of Security personnel will lead all special operations across the country with the full respect for Afghan sovereignty, Afghan laws and the Afghan constitution," Wardak said at the signing ceremony.
According to the MoU, all special operations will be approved by the Afghan Operational Coordination Group and conducted by Afghan forces with the support of U.S. forces in accordance with Afghan laws.
The group, manned by Afghan personnel from security and law enforcement agencies, will review, approve and monitor the operations, it said.
It has been agreed that Afghan residential houses and private compounds are to be necessarily searched only by Afghan forces, with support from U.S. forces only as requested.
"The Afghan Special forces are to protect any women, children or culturally sensitive places during the operations," said the Afghan defense minister.
NATO and U.S. officials contend that conducting night operations reduces the danger to civilians while keeping pressure on insurgents. But the night raids have concerned the Afghan government for killing civilians.
The night raid operations by U.S. forces in Afghanistan have been a main sticking point in relationship between the two governments and a final obstacle to a possible Strategic Partnership Agreement which is to guide the Afghan-U.S. ties after the U.S. military withdrawal in 2014.
Wardak said that "inking this agreement is a positive step towards finalizing the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the two countries." According to Afghan officials, the pact is expected to be signed before a NATO Summit in Chicago in May this year.
"Today we are one important step closer to our shared goal of a secure and sovereign Afghanistan. Together we will realize this vision." said the top U.S. commander.
Previously on March 9, the Afghan government and U.S. forces signed an agreement in Kabul on the handing over of a main U.S. detention center or Bagram prison to the control of the Afghan side. According to the deal, Afghan army will take full control of Bagram prison after six months.
"In conjunction with the Detentions MoU we signed last month, today's MoU gives tangible expression to the vision of the Afghan Loya Jirga (the grand assembly) and to the will of the Afghan people," Allen said.