Karzai again accuses Western forces of attacking Afghan civilians
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai erupted in anger at the United States on Thursday over what he said was a drone strike in southern Afghanistan that killed a child and wounded two women.
Karzai, already locked in a bitter dispute with the U.S. over American ground raids on Afghan homes, repeated that he will not sign a proposed security agreement between the two nations unless all such raids are ended immediately. In a statement on his presidential website late Thursday night, he seemed to add airstrikes to that demand.
“This attack shows that American forces do not respect the safety of the Afghan people in their homes,” Karzai said, according to the website. “For years our people have been killed and their homes destroyed under the pretext of a war on terror.”
Karzai warned the United States last week that one more attack on an Afghan home by U.S. forces would end all possibility of signing the agreement.
Karzai said a drone attack “by American forces” struck a house in the village of Faqiran, in the Garmsir district of Helmand province. Taliban insurgents control much of the southern province, and Garmsir has been fiercely contested in battles between the Taliban and NATO-led international troops over the years.
[Updated, 9:25 p.m.: A statement issued Friday morning in Kabul by the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, confirmed an airstrike in Helmand on Thursday “on a known insurgent riding a motorbike.”
It added: “ISAF deeply regrets any civilian casualties caused by this airstrike yesterday. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those killed or wounded.”
The ISAF did not specify whether the airstrike was conducted by a drone. It said it would investigate the incident and cooperate with Afghan authorities “to determine what happened and why.”
“ISAF is committed to ensuring that all measures are taken to prevent civilian casualties,” the statement said.]
The U.S. military operates Reaper and Predator drones in Afghanistan. The CIA operates drones in the more highly publicized program run against militants in neighboring Pakistan.
Karzai’s comments on the website indicated that he was more alienated than ever from the United States and that he is focusing his anger on the issue of civilian casualties.
“Until such aggression and arrogance by foreign troops on our people continues, the security agreement with the United States of America will not be signed,” he said.
Last week, Karzai agreed to the text of a proposed 24-page pact that would define the security partnership between Afghanistan and the United States for 10 years after international combat forces withdraw at the end of 2014. But on Nov. 21, he abruptly added new conditions – among them an immediate halt to so-called night raids by U.S. forces on Afghan homes.
The U.S. has told Karzai that it considers negotiations on the pact completed, and has said it cannot plan for the post-2014 U.S. military training mission unless the agreement is signed before the end of this year.
On Sunday, a grand council, or loya jirga, whose members were largely handpicked by Karzai, urged him to sign the agreement by year’s end. Karzai’s statement Thursday said the alleged drone strike showed that the U.S. does not respect the loya jirga decision.
A spokesman for the Karzai-appointed governor of Helmand told The Times in a telephone interview late Thursday that an ISAF drone strike targeted a Taliban commander named Mullah Nazar Gul while the man was in a house in Faqiran. The drone strike apparently missed Gul but killed a child and two women in the house, according to the spokesman, Omar Zowak.
Zowak said a drone fired a second missile about 100 yards from the house, killing the Taliban commander.
Special correspondent Hashmat Baktash contributed to this report.
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