Karzai wants pact with US but says raids must end

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked the nation’s elders Wednesday to back negotiations for a new security pact with the United States, assuring them that he would demand an end to unpopular night raids in which troops swoop down from helicopters and search Afghan homes.

He struck patriotic themes at a national assembly where he outlined his conditions for an agreement that would govern America’s military presence in Afghanistan after 2014. By that time, U.S. and other foreign combat troops are supposed to have left or taken on military support roles.

Karzai is walking a tightrope. Although he routinely plays to anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan by denouncing the U.S., he needs America’s military and financial strength to back his weak government as it battles the Taliban insurgency.

Karzai acknowledged that Pakistan, Iran, Russia and other regional powers have expressed concern at the idea of permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan. But he said Afghanistan would let U.S. forces stay because America is sending aid and training Afghan security forces.

In exchange, he said night raids should end and that the Afghan government, not Americans, should be put in charge of detainees.

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