Airstrikes on homes must end, says Karzai
KABUL AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai has declared that NATO aircraft can no longer fire on homes under any circumstances, an indication that the conflict over NATO airstrikes that kill civilians, including one that left 18 dead last week, remains unresolved.
Following an outcry over the attack in Logar province, which killed children, teenagers and adults, NATO imposed new limits on airstrikes aimed at houses, but still wants to use them to defend troops on the ground.
Karzai and the coalition met last weekend to discuss airstrikes that have inadvertently killed Afghan civilians, a politically heated issue. However, the two sides offer different interpretations about what they agreed upon at the meeting.
The dispute highlights the sensitive relationship between the international force and Karzai. The Afghan president has denounced airstrikes that have caused civilian deaths on countless occasions and repeatedly says the war on terrorism should not be fought, and cannot be won, in Afghan villages.
“An agreement has been reached clearly with NATO that no bombardment of civilian homes for any reason is allowed,” Karzai said defiantly at a news conference at the presidential palace in Kabul on Tuesday. “Even when they are under attack, they (coalition forces) cannot use an airplane to bomb Afghan homes,” he said. To underscore his point, he repeated: “Even when they are under attack.” Airstrikes on homes are a small part of international military operations in Afghanistan, yet they have brewed intense resentment among Afghans, who feel they employ a disproportionate use of force and put civilians at risk in their own homes.
The international force operates under a UN mandate, and while Afghan forces partner with coalition troops on night raids, coalition commanders are the ones who authorise airstrikes.
Karzai said that at a meeting after the incident in Logar province, he asked US Marine General John Allen, the top commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan: “Do you do this in the United States? There is police action every day in the United States.
They don’t call in airplanes to bomb the place.”