/ 2 March 2011

Karzai condemns foreign forces for civilian death

Karzai Condemns Foreign Forces For Civilian Death

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai angrily criticised foreign forces on Wednesday over civilian deaths, warning against “daily killing” after officials said nine children died in an air strike.

Karzai told the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), which has 140 000 troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, that it could face “huge problems” if mistaken civilian deaths did not stop.

His statement came after an Afghan police chief said nine children died in an air strike targeting insurgents on Tuesday in the troubled north-eastern province of Kunar, which has seen a string of recent reported civilian deaths.

It again highlighted tensions between Karzai and the international community in Afghanistan ahead of the planned start of a limited withdrawal of foreign troops from July.

The Afghan army and police are due to take control of security in their own country from 2014.

“I once again point out that Nato and Isaf must focus on terrorist bases and havens or otherwise, with the daily killing of innocent civilians, they will cause huge problems for themselves,” Karzai said in a statement issued by his office in Kabul.

Gathering firewood
He added that the nine children said to have been killed in the latest strike had been gathering firewood.

A spokesman for Isaf said a delegation made up of Afghan and Isaf officials had deployed to carry out an investigation into the latest incident.

It said on Tuesday that it takes claims of civilian casualties “very seriously” and pledged to investigate the most recent “quickly and thoroughly”.

About 150 people demonstrated in the town of Asadabad, the capital of Kunar, following the latest incident. The crowd shouted anti-American slogans, witnesses said.

Karzai has long insisted that international forces deployed to his war-torn country should focus their efforts on militant hideouts across the border in neighbouring Pakistan.

He also stressed that “Afghan villages are not the bases and havens of terrorism” in his statement.

Cause of friction
Kunar provincial police chief Khalilullah Ziayee said nine children aged between seven and nine were killed in an air raid by Isaf forces against insurgents on Tuesday.

The incident came after troops countered an attack on a base in Darah-Ye Pech district with air and fire power.

Earlier this week, an official delegation appointed by Karzai accused international forces of killing 65 civilians in a wave of recent, separate operations elsewhere in Kunar.

Isaf says there were only a handful of civilian injuries but Karzai also spoke out following that incident.

Kunar is a mountainous region on the Pakistani border where insurgents linked to the Taliban and other militant groups are most active.

Civilian casualties during international military operations against insurgents are a key cause of friction between the Kabul government and its Western supporters.

Karzai argues that such incidents risk draining support away from his administration and towards the Taliban. — AFP