KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's president said Thursday that his government is "taking a magnifying glass" to proposals for the country's strategic partnership deal with the United States.
In a speech at the graduation ceremony for Afghanistan's military academy, Hamid Karzai also reiterated a pledge that any deal reached will respect Afghan sovereignty.
Talks on the pact, which will set the rules for U.S. troops who stay on after the majority of combat forces leave in 2014, have stalled on several occasions in recent months as Karzai has demanded more control over how American forces operate in the country.
Afghan and U.S. officials both say they want to sign the deal by a NATO summit in May. However, Karzai vowed Thursday that no detail will be overlooked in the push to get a deal inked.
"We are taking a magnifying glass in our hand and looking at even the tiniest items," Karzai said.
He applauded recent progress on two issues that had threatened to derail an agreement: U.S. detainees and night raids by international forces.
The two governments signed a deal earlier this month on how to hand over control of the some 3,000 Afghan detainees held by the United States. Karzai also said progress is being made toward an agreement on how night raids would be conducted. The Afghan president has called for international forces to be barred from taking part in night raids, a proposal that NATO strongly objects to, saying the raids are essential to capturing insurgent leaders.
U.S. officials have said that one compromise being discussed would involve getting a warrant from an Afghan judge to conduct the raids jointly.
The key issue for Karzai is national sovereignty – that Kabul will control how forces operate in the country.
"The security of Afghanistan will come from the sons of Afghanistan, according to the Afghan constitution," he told the assembled graduates.
The negotiations are taking place as Afghan-U.S. relations have grown increasingly strained this year. This year has seen outrage over an Internet video showing Marines urinating on supposed Taliban corpses, deadly riots and attacks over the burning of copies of the Quran at a U.S. base and then, just a little over a week ago, the killing of 17 Afghan villagers allegedly carried out by a U.S. soldier.
Villagers previously reported 16 dead, but U.S. defense officials said Thursday that the death toll was one higher. They were unable to immediately explain the change and spoke anonymously because the investigation into the shooting is continuing.
Most Afghans still say they want international forces in the country helping to keep the peace and that it is just a matter of figuring out what rules they should govern their operations.
As the political wrangling has continued, so have the attacks. On Thursday, a suicide car bomber blew himself up at a security checkpoint near a police station in southern Afghanistan, killing two children, officials said.
The attacker detonated his explosives just outside the station in Kandahar, the main city in southern Afghanistan, said provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Razaq. Two police officers and six civilians were wounded, Razaq said.
Another assailant tried to enter the police station just after the blast and was shot dead by police, Razaq said.
Associated Press writers Pauline Jelinek and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report from Washington.
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