Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai announced his goal to set limits on what foreign troops are able to do in his country.
The announcement came in a speech on Wednesday with Afghanistan’s grand assembly, or loya jirga.
In the speech, Karzai compared the Afghan people to lions, suggesting that although America is powerful, lions do not like strangers in their home.
“We want our sovereignty from today. Our relations should be between two independent countries,” said Karzai.
He added, “I’d like to tell them they can’t arrest any Afghan on our soil and they can’t have prisons. We have a justice and security system and that is up to us.”
Karzai called for U.S. and NATO troops to put a stop to night raids, a highly contentious military practice among the Afghan population.
According to official statistics, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) killed more than 1,500 people in less than 10 months in 2010 and early 2011. Night raids are the largest cause of civilian deaths in the war in Afghanistan.
Ancient Pashtun culture relegates that every adult male carry a weapon in his home and defend his family and friends against armed intruders. Thus, non-targeted civilians in night raids have typically been neighbors or family members of targeted insurgents that have come to their assistance against armed intruders.
As a result, SOF commanders typically consider all civilian deaths in night raids, besides those of women and children, as deaths of insurgents.
Karazi’s speech marked the first day of the loya jirga where political leaders and tribal elders deliberate on the country’s most pressing issues.
This year, the four-day assembly is set to focus on the kind of relationship Afghanistan seeks to have with the United States, as well as mechanisms for moving forward on peace discussions with the Taliban, which have been largely disrupted.
Karzai said the U.S. and NATO must agree to stop carrying out night raids on Afghan homes as a precondition to Kabul signing a highly delayed military pact with the U.S.
“We want to have a strong partnership with the U.S. and NATO, but with conditions,” Karzai said.
Karazi maintained that it is in Afghanistan’s interests to maintain a cooperative relationship with the U.S. He also said that Afghanistan does not want foreign troops to have “parallel” institutions with its government.