Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered the Defence Ministry to take control of night raids, one of the most controversial tactics used by foreign troops fighting the Taliban, in a move likely to stoke tensions between Kabul and its Western backers. Karzai, who has previously riled US and Nato leaders with criticism of night raids, said in a statement from his office that Afghan troops should be carrying out the sensitive operations themselves.
"President Hamid Karzai ordered the Defence Ministry to prevent foreign troops from uncoordinated and arbitrary operations and bring night raids under its control," the statement said. "The president stresses that special operations and night raids must be independently conducted by Afghan troops." Afghans say the raids, carried out in darkness on houses suspected of harbouring insurgents or being used as a store for weapons, often lead to civilian casualties.
Foreign troops have defended them as key to gaining ground against insurgents, cutting down the leaders of a movement with more territory and influence than at any time since 2001. The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) declined immediate comment on Karzai's statement.
Karzai said the operations alienate Afghans from their government through violence, and cause discontent. Last November he called for the US military to end night raids.
His latest demands come at a time of high anti-Western sentiment in Afghanistan and days after deadly protests by thousands of people against a night raid by Nato troops in which four people, including two women, were killed.