Afghanistan Seeks Control Over NATO Deployments

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KABUL, Afghanistan – 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 U.S. troops, officials said Tuesday.

The draft technical agreement would put into place rules of conduct for NATO-led troops in Afghanistan and the number of additional NATO troops and their location would have to be approved by the Afghan government.

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

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who met with Gen. David Petraeus on Tuesday and discussed how to prevent civilian deaths and the role of Afghan forces in U.S. missions, told legislators that his government sent the draft agreement to NATO about two weeks ago. As the head of U.S. Central Command, Petraeus oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Addressing parliament at its opening session, a frustrated Karzai said the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

U.S. and NATO-led troops say militants deliberately use civilians as human shields in their fight against foreign and Afghan troops, and there have been multiple 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 nations 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."

• 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's not clear if the agreement would apply to the separate U.S. coalition and its 15,000 U.S. troops, said U.S. spokesman Col. Greg Julian.

Karzai's office said that the president late Tuesday met with Petraeus and talked about ways to prevent civilian casualties. Karzai also told Petraeus that U.S. troops need to more closely cooperate with Afghan authorities and soldiers, Karzai's office said.

The latest dispute over civilian casualties arose two weeks ago, when the U.S. military said its troops killed 32 militants in the eastern province of Nangarhar, while Karzai said 17 of those killed were civilians.

Civilian deaths undermine Karzai's support ahead of his re-election bid this year. They also sap the support that foreign troops need to help the government extend its reach across the country.

U.S. Gen. David McKiernan, the commanding officer of all NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, issued a directive to troops in September meant to reduce the number of casualties. Commanders have said they are advising troops to break off a battle with militants rather than risk firing into a civilian area.

Appathurai, the NATO spokesman, said that directive is meant to convoy NATO's concerns over civilian casualties.