Statement follows warning by President Karzai that alliance forces risk becoming seen as ‘occupying force’
An Afghan man holds the bodies of two children who were killed after an air strike in Helmand province, May 29, 2011. (Photo credit: (Photo credit: Abdul Malik Watanyar / Reuters)
Reuters and The Associated Press via MSNBC.com
May 31, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan — Attacks on houses in Afghanistan would continue, NATO said on Tuesday, after an alliance airstrike over the weekend killed civilians and prompted harsh condemnation from President Hamid Karzai.
Ordering airstrikes is a command decision in Afghanistan, where NATO spokeswoman Maj. Sunset Belinsky insisted they would continue.
“Coalition forces constantly strive to reduce the chance of civilian casualties and damage to structures,” 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 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.” …
Earlier, Karzai warned NATO forces fighting in his country that they risk becoming seen as an “occupying force” if they do not stop attacking Afghan homes with airstrikes as they hunt insurgents.
Karzai said he would no longer allow NATO airstrikes on houses because they have caused too many civilian casualties.
“If they don’t stop airstrikes on Afghan homes, their presence in Afghanistan will be considered as an occupying force and against the will of the Afghan people,” Karzai told a news conference in Kabul Tuesday. “From this moment, airstrikes on the houses of people are not allowed.” …
Karzai reacted angrily after the airstrikes on a compound inadvertently killed at least nine people — most of them children — in southern Helmand on Sunday.
The strikes were ordered after a patrol had come under fire. Graphic television footage after the strikes showed grieving relatives holding the bodies of several children, including babies.
The commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) later apologized for the deaths, saying the strikes on the compound had been ordered because insurgents were using them as a base.
It was the president’s strongest statement against the strikes, which NATO says are a necessary weapon in the war against the Taliban insurgency.
Civilian casualties caused by foreign troops, usually in airstrikes or “night raids” on Afghan homes as they hunt insurgents, have long been a major source of friction between Karzai and his Western backers. …
Karzai has previously made strong statements against certain military tactics — such as night raids — only to back off from them later.
But if Karzai holds to what sounds like an order to international troops to abandon strikes, it could bring the Afghan government in direct conflict with its international allies.
It is unclear if Karzai has the power to order an end to such strikes. NATO and American forces are in Afghanistan under a United Nations mandate. …
Related reports on this site
Afghanistan Worn-Out Welcome (Nov. 21, 2010)
Angry Protest After U.S. Raid (April 29, 2010)
‘Making Enemies’ in Afghanistan (April 12, 2010)
Afghan Support for U.S. Plummets (Feb. 10, 2009)
Afghan Villagers Protest Raids (Feb. 1, 2009)
Karzai: Stop Air-Raiding Civilians (Nov. 5, 2008)
Karzai Warns of Afghan Backlash (Sept. 25, 2008)
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — May 31, 2010
One year ago today, I featured coverage of Memorial Day tributes by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and major news services.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — May 31, 2009
South Korean protesters hold pictures of the North’s Kim Jong-Il and a boy believed to be his annointed successor, Kim Jong-Un, 26, in Seoul, February 2009. (Photo credit: Jung Yeon-je / AFP – Getty Images)
Two years ago, on May 31, 2009, I featured my psychological assessment of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, examined the leadership style implications of Kim’s personality profile, and evaluated the threat potential of North Korea with respect to U.S. national security.
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