KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday called for peace talks with the Haqqani network in Pakistan as he sought to assuage domestic fears over Afghanistan's future partnership with the United States.
Following a recent visit to the region by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Karzai reiterated conditions for the US strategic agreement due to be worked out next month, insisting that US forces must stop raiding Afghan homes.
In an interview with Pakistan's Geo television broadcast on Saturday, Karzai also said that peace talks with the hardline Haqqani network should take place in Pakistan, according to a statement from the presidential palace in Kabul.
“Regarding the peace process, I should say that the Taliban shura is in Pakistan, we all know that Haqqani group is in Pakistan... that is why we clearly insist to talk with our brothers in Pakistan instead of an anonymous and without address Talib,” he said.
Ten years into the war in Afghanistan the Taliban's efforts to regain power show little sign of waning, with Clinton this week saying that the US planned to continue the ground fight while simultaneously trying to talk to the insurgents.
During her visit, the top US diplomat pressed Pakistan to encourage talks and dismantle militant safe havens on its side of the border, as US and Afghan troops push a new offensive against the Haqqanis in eastern Afghanistan.
But while many Afghans have little trust in their neighbour's role in ending the war, they are also fearful about any long-term US presence in the country following the planned departure of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.
Karzai restated Afghanistan's conditions, insisting that American troops must not enter Afghan homes, implying that they should end controversial night raids in pursuit of Taliban targets that have caused many civilian casualties.
“We no longer want any Americans to enter Afghan homes,” he said according to the statement.
“We want night raids to stop following the signing of this (strategic) agreement.” Foreign-operated prisons must be closed, he added, and arrest of Afghans by foreign forces and operations of private security companies must end.