Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Karzai decries civilian deaths from international operations

As I have noted in previous posts these actions are likely causing NATO forces to lose the support of the citizens and increase recruits and support for the Taliban. The US and NATO reports often ignore or deny that there are civilian casualties as is the case here. Of course Karzai is more or less impotent as far as stopping the attacks are concerned. I am sure he does not get to authorise them. It is the military that decides when and how to attack. In fact Karzai depends upon a US contractor to provide him with personal security.

Afghan president decries civilian deaths By ALISA TANG, Associated Press Writer
Wed May 2, 1:45 PM ET

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghans can no longer accept or understand civilian deaths from international military operations, President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday after officials said 51 villagers were killed during a U.S.-led offensive against the Taliban in western Afghanistan.

Despite claims that women and children were among the dead, the U.S. military maintained it had no reports of civilian casualties. But rising public anger was evident as students staged a fourth day of anti-American protests in an eastern city over civilian deaths.

Karzai met with NATO, U.S. and European Union officials, telling them that "civilian deaths and arbitrary decisions to search people's houses have reached an unacceptable level, and Afghans cannot put up with it any longer," according to a statement from his office.

During an earlier news conference, Karzai said Afghans had reached their limit after the years of conflict since the Taliban's ouster in late 2001.

"The intention is very good in these operations to fight terrorism. Sometimes mistakes have been made as well, but five years on, it is very difficult for us to continue to accept civilian casualties," Karzai told reporters.

"We can no longer accept civilian casualties the way they occur," he added. "It is not understandable anymore."

The U.S.-led coalition said the military operation in western Herat province was conducted between Friday and Sunday by U.S. and Afghan troops in the Zerkoh Valley and killed 136 suspected Taliban militants — the deadliest fighting in Afghanistan since January.

The bloodshed sparked angry anti-U.S. protests earlier this week by villagers. Mohammad Homayoun Azizi, chief of Herat's provincial council, said two council members who visited the area along with Afghan police and intelligence officers reported that 51 civilians were killed.

Azizi said the bodies were buried in three locations and included women and children. The dead included 12 relatives of a man named Jamal Mirzai, he said.

A man being treated in a hospital Wednesday said he was wounded by an airstrike that did not hit any insurgents. "There were no Taliban. Ten of my relatives have been killed, including two of my cousins," said the man, who gave only his first name, Mohammed.

Osman Kalali, a lawmaker who was part of the investigative delegation, said they did not see any Taliban or other militants among the dead. "The casualties were women, children, this kind of people," he said.

Civilian deaths have deepened Afghans' distrust of international forces and of the U.S.-backed government as they try to combat a resurgent Taliban — itself accused by human rights groups of indiscriminate attacks that often kill noncombatants.

"We do everything we can to prevent civilian casualties in our operations, and we have no reports of civilian casualties in that operation" in Herat, said a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, Maj. Chris Belcher.

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