Afghan President: Airstrikes in Civilian Areas ‘Absolutely Banned’

Posted June 12th, 2012 at 8:50 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the use of NATO airstrikes in civilian areas is “absolutely banned,” even when coalition forces are under attack.

Mr. Karzai told reporters Tuesday that bombing of civilian homes is not allowed for any reason, and that Afghanistan considers the airstrikes a “disproportionate” and “illegitimate” use of force.

His comments come a day after NATO officials announced an agreement to restrict the use of airstrikes in residential areas following a deadly airstrike last week. Afghan officials said that bombing killed 18 civilians.

But the deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Curtis Scaporrotti, said Monday troops would still have the option of calling in airstrikes in self defense when no other options were available.

Mr. Karzai has long criticized the bombings. On Tuesday, the Afghan president said that in meetings with top U.S. and NATO officials, “I said do you do this in the United States? There is police action everyday in the United States in various localities, they don't call an airplane to bomb that place.”

NATO said Monday that it has conducted 1,300 “close air support engagements” since January of this year, during which 32 civilian compounds were damaged and five incidents of civilian casualties were confirmed.

The Afghan president said his country has been “greatly troubled by civilian casualties” and that the issue has create serious tension with its allies in NATO and the United States. He said one of the objectives behind the signing of an April partnership agreement was to “turn a new page” in the relationship between Afghanistan and the coalition.

That agreement put Afghans in charge of special operations, including controversial night raids on Afghan homes that have been another major source of contention between the two sides.

International combat forces are in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan and transferring security responsibility to their Afghan counterparts by the end of 2014.

Also Tuesday, officials said a suicide bomber on a bicycle killed two civilians and wounded five police officers in Balkh province, while in Wardak province, a minibus hit a roadside bomb, killing five people.

And in the south, NATO says a bomb explosion killed one of its service members, but did not give details.