Afghan government says likely to reach U.S. prison deal
KABUL (Reuters) - An agreement on the transfer of U.S.-managed detention centers to Afghan authorities is likely soon, the Afghan presidential spokesman said Tuesday, a move that could advance efforts to reach a long-term strategic partnership.
"Both sides are studying a memorandum of understanding now. I am optimistic we will reach an agreement in the next three days," the spokesman, Aimal Faizi, told Reuters. U.S. embassy officials were not immediately available for comment.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement, which Washington and Kabul have been discussing for over a year, will be the framework for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan beyond 2014, when the last foreign combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan.
Afghanistan wants the United States and NATO to agree to stop carrying out night raids on Afghan homes as a precondition for signing an agreement with Washington and a timeline to assume control over detention centers.
In a meeting Monday between Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. John Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, the American side proposed a six-month timeline for the transfer.
Karzai was reported to have set a deadline of March 9 for the United States to hand over the detention facilities.
An Afghan official said that under one possible scenario, a transfer of prisons could start within the next few days and it may be completed within six months.
Relations have been heavily strained in recent weeks over the burning of copies of the Muslim holy book at a NATO base, which triggered violent protests and prompted some Afghan security forces to turn their weapons on American soldiers.
(Reporting by Michael Georgy; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)