South Asia

Petraeus and Karzai 'agree on special forces'

General David Petraeus
Image caption Gen Petraeus said that civilian casualties as a result of special forces operations have been falling

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US General David Petraeus have met to discuss the president's call for US forces to leave the country by 2011.

The two reached agreement that special forces raids - which the president earlier said should end - can continue.

Throughout their one-hour meeting, the president expressed broad support for the Nato-led military strategy.

His earlier criticism was a reflection of a "mature partnership," his spokesman said.

The president and Gen Petraeus are still on "good terms", he added.

But a particular sore point between the two has been the night raids carried out by special forces as they hunt for Taliban commanders.

Mr Karzai previously said the raids should end because they were unpopular with Afghans generally.

But the US views them as a vital component in efforts to combat the insurgency, which is why they have tripled in number over the past year.

Gen Petraeus sought to reassure the president by explaining that Afghan forces take the lead in such raids and that senior officials in the ministries of interior and defence take part in the planning stages.

He said that civilian casualties as a result of the operations are small in number and have been falling.

Mr Karzai agreed - reluctantly - that the raids should continue, according to one observer.

Both Gen Petraeus and President Karzai have left Kabul to attend the Nato summit in Lisbon.

The two-day meeting will discuss plans for the handover of security in Afghanistan from international to Afghan forces.

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