Karzai seeks to curb Nato strikes

Karzai seeks to curb Nato strikes

Angered by civilian casualties, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has vowed to no longer allow Nato airstrikes on houses, issuing his strongest statement yet against attacks that the military alliance says are vital to its war on Taliban insurgents.

Nato countered that airstrikes on houses are essential and will continue, setting up a possible confrontation with Mr Karzai.

The president’s remarks followed a recent strike that mistakenly killed a group of children and women in southern Helmand province. Mr Karzai declared it would be the last.

“From this moment, airstrikes on the houses of people are not allowed,” Mr Karzai told reporters in Kabul.

Ordering airstrikes is a command decision in Afghanistan. A Nato spokeswoman there, Maj Sunset Belinsky, insisted they would continue.

“Coalition forces constantly strive to reduce the chance of civilian casualties and damage to structures,” Maj Belinsky said, “but when the insurgents use civilians as a shield and put our forces in a position where their only option is to use airstrikes, then they will take that option.”

In Brussels, Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu insisted Nato airstrikes are still essential.

She said the alliance takes Mr Karzai’s concerns very seriously and would continue to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties. She said airstrikes on houses are coordinated with Afghan forces and “they continue to be necessary.”

“In many of these operations, Afghans are in the lead,” she said. She would not comment specifically on the recent raid in Helmand province.

Maj Belinsky also offered a conciliatory tone. “In the days and weeks ahead we will co-ordinate very closely with President Karzai to ensure that his intent is met,” she said. Mr Karzai has previously made strong statements against certain military tactics, such as night raids, only to back away from them later.

If Mr Karzai holds to what sounds like an order to international troops to abandon most airstrikes, it could bring the Afghan government into direct conflict with its international allies.

Mr Karzai’s spokesman said the president plans to stand firm on this issue, regardless of the fallout with Nato.

“The president was very clear today about the fact that bombardments on Afghan homes and Afghan civilians are unacceptable and must be stopped. There is no room for back and forth on this,” Waheed Omar said. “The president was clear in saying that any such strikes in the future will make the Afghan government react unilaterally.”

Nato airstrikes target Taliban and other militants in towns and villages. The international force has scaled back such strikes because of worries that civilians could be inside targeted buildings, but has maintained that they are still an essential tool because they are often more precise and can be less costly in casualties on both sides than ground operations.

It is unclear if Mr Karzai has the power to order an end to such strikes. Nato and American forces are in Afghanistan under a United Nations mandate. Negotiations between the United States and the Afghan government over the presence of US forces have become contentious. Mr Karzai has declared that he will put strict controls on how US troops operate.

More on this topic

Letter to the Editor: What’s the story with Irish slang? It’s deadlyLetter to the Editor: What’s the story with Irish slang? It’s deadly

Row over lack of Irish-language teaching in Irish-medium unitRow over lack of Irish-language teaching in Irish-medium unit

Island radio gives digital voice to the people as GaeilgeIsland radio gives digital voice to the people as Gaeilge

Should Irish be optional in school? - Let’s talk about our languageShould Irish be optional in school? - Let’s talk about our language


More in this Section

Khashoggi fiancee says she wants justice over ‘great betrayal and deception’Khashoggi fiancee says she wants justice over ‘great betrayal and deception’

Mediterranean countries risk becoming ‘melting pots’ for coronavirus – expertMediterranean countries risk becoming ‘melting pots’ for coronavirus – expert

Saudi suspects tried in absentia over Khashoggi death in TurkeySaudi suspects tried in absentia over Khashoggi death in Turkey

Britain wins bidding war for satellite company OneWebBritain wins bidding war for satellite company OneWeb


Lifestyle

Like it or not, video meetings are here to stay. Home editor Eve Kelliher gets an expert's secrets to preparing interiors for their close-up.How to ensure your home is always camera-ready in the Zoom era

Tougher plants, smaller plots and more communal spaces will grow in popularity, says Hannah Stephenson.What will gardens of the future look like?

Ciara McDonnell chats with four women who’ve decided to embrace their natural hair colour after time away from the salonBack to my roots: Four women who've decided to embrace their natural hair colour

Allowing your children to lead the way is the key to fun outdoor play, and there are many things you can build or buy to help them along, says Kya deLongchampsGarden adventures: Allowing your children to lead the way is the key to fun outdoor play

More From The Irish Examiner