(AFP) – Jul 26, 2011
KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday outlined conditions governing negotiations for a future strategic partnership with the United States as he met defence chiefs at his palace.
The new US ambassador in Kabul, Ryan Crocker, has said the US has no interest in permanent military bases in the country and does not want to project its influence in the region by remaining in Afghanistan.
But fears remain among many Afghans over any long-term American presence in the country following the departure of all foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.
Karzai said Afghanistan's conditions included foreign forces working within Afghan legal rules, US troops not taking prisoners or maintaining jails, and an end to controversial night raids by elite commandos.
He gave no details how the demands would shape negotiations, as he addressed heads of the army, police and intelligence services in a speech marking the end of the first phase of security transitions from foreign to local forces' control.
"There are many other conditions on the economy and sovereignty and all other aspects... and about respect to the Afghan constitution," Karzai said.
"They also have their own conditions, but we haven?t agreed on anything yet."
Seven parts of the country were ceremonially handed over from foreign to Afghan forces last week, although NATO officials say it will be up to two years before each area will assume full control for security and governance.
All Western combat troops are due to leave by the end of 2014.
"NATO and the international community are helping our country. But this will not go on forever and we don't want it forever," Karzai said.
"We are not proud of that. The good news will come when we, Afghans, are protecting our own homeland.
"It will happen only with hard work and sacrifice. Especially from our Afghan forces," he added.
Critics have said the process is premature because Afghan forces are not ready to hold off the Taliban, and they say it is motivated by a political timetable as coalition nations start to bring some of their troops home.
The deputy head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, Michael Keating, said in a statement Tuesday that the focus on the first phase of transition must be used to improve Afghanistan's institutions.
"Transition will only succeed with adequate investment in development, governance and the rule of law," he said.
"The momentum around transition must be captured to fast-forward efforts to strengthen Afghan institutional capacity, especially at the provincial level."
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