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Karzai: Afghanistan-U.S. pact will be scrutinized

- Associated Press - Thursday, March 22, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that his government is "taking a magnifying glass" to proposals for the country's strategic partnership deal with the United States and scrutinizing every detail.

In a speech at the graduation ceremony for Afghanistan's military academy, Mr. Karzai also reiterated a pledge that the deal being negotiated will respect Afghan sovereignty.

Talks on the pact, which will provide rules for U.S. troops who stay on after the majority of combat forces leave in 2014, have stalled multiple times in recent months as Mr. Karzai demanded more control over how U.S. forces operate in the country.

Afghan and U.S. officials both say they want the pact signed by a NATO summit in May. However, Mr. Karzai promised Thursday that no detail will be overlooked in the push to get a deal inked.

"We are taking a magnifying glass in our hand and looking at even the tiniest items," Mr. Karzai said.

He applauded recent progress on two issues that had threatened to derail the deal: U.S. detainees and night raids by international forces.

The two governments signed a deal earlier this month on how to hand over control of the U.S. detention program, and Mr. Karzai said progress is being made toward an agreement on how night raids would be conducted. Mr. Karzai has called for no international forces on night raids, which NATO troops strongly object to, saying they are essential to capturing insurgent leaders.

U.S. officials have said one compromise being discussed would involve getting a warrant from an Afghan judge to conduct the raids jointly.

The key issue for Mr. Karzai is national sovereignty — that Afghanistan will control how forces operate in the country.

"The security of Afghanistan will come from the sons of Afghanistan, according to the Afghan Constitution," he told the assembled graduates.

The negotiations are going on as Afghan-U.S. relations have become increasingly strained this year. Even before this month's massacre of Afghan villagers allegedly carried out by a U.S. soldier, there had been deadly riots and attacks over the burning of Korans at a U.S. base and outrage about an Internet video showing Marines urinating on supposed Taliban corpses.

But most Afghans still say that they want international forces here helping keep the peace and that it is just a matter of figuring out what rules they should operate under.

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