Report: Afghans, US reach deal on oversight of night-time raids

The U.S. and Afghan governments signed an agreement Sunday on the conduct of overnight raids in Afghanistan, according to media reports.

Under the agreement, Kabul would have oversight of night-time raids, with operations subject to an initial review by an Afghan panel composed of military and intelligence officials.

The agreement was signed by Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak and U.S. Afghanistan commander Gen. John Allen.

"Today we are one step closer to the establishment of a strategic partnership," Allen said, according to reports.

American commanders would be consulted before any decision on an operation, but reports said it was unclear if an American officer would have a seat on the oversight panel.

The agreement is a welcome development for the Obama administration which feared talks over the contentious issue of night-time raids would derail efforts to craft a long-term deal governing the American mission in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai had stepped up calls for the raids, which are unpopular with much of the Afghan public, to end after a series of missteps raised tensions between Washington and Kabul.

In March, a rogue U.S. army staff sergeant was charged with the murder of 17 Afghan civilians. That incident followed a wave of violence in February after the accidental burning of Qurans on a NATO airbase.

U.S. military officials however had insisted that the overnight special operations were necessary to capture Taliban and al Qaeda elements.

The administration’s focus will now shift to the completion of an agreement clarifying the U.S. role in Afghanistan after the departure of combat forces. The majority of U.S. forces are scheduled to leave the Afghanistan by the end of 2014.