By Fisnik Abrashi / August 26, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – The United Nations said Tuesday it has found “convincing evidence” that U.S. coalition troops and Afghan forces killed some 90 civilians, including 60 children, in airstrikes in western Afghanistan.
The U.N. said it based its findings solely on the testimony of villagers and meetings with Afghan officials, and did not provide photos or evidence that its investigators saw any graves.
President Hamid Karzai’s government, in a harshly worded statement, ordered its ministries of foreign affairs and defense to regulate the presence of foreign troops and try to negotiate an end to “airstrikes on civilian targets, uncoordinated house searches and illegal detention of Afghan civilians.”
The U.S. coalition has said it killed 25 militants and five civilians in an operation in Shindand district of Herat province on Friday.
Karzai’s statement appears to be aimed at both international forces operating in Afghanistan: the U.S.-led coalition, which conducts special forces counterterrorism operations and trains the fledgling Afghan army and police, and the U.N.-mandated NATO-led force tasked to provide security for the war-ravaged nation.
The accusation from the world body will likely fuel tensions among the U.S. coalition, the U.N. and the Afghan government.
Karzai’s spokesman, Humayun Hamidzada, said Tuesday that the decision was made after Afghan officials “lost patience” with foreign forces, and the killings and detentions of civilians during raids in remote villages.
“We do not want international forces to leave Afghanistan until the time our security institutions are able to defend Afghanistan independently,” Hamidzada told reporters Tuesday.
But the presence of those forces has to be based “within the framework of Afghan law with respect to international law,” Hamidzada said.
Hamidzada says circumstances have changed. “Afghanistan of 2001 is different from Afghanistan today,” he said. He said the government has not discussed any timetable for the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.
Capt. Mike Windsor, a spokesman for the NATO-led force, said the force had seen media reports about the government’s decision but had not received “any official notification so far.”
He pointed out that NATO’s “mission is based on a U.N. mandate and carried upon the invitation of the Afghan government.”
There was no immediate comment from the U.S.-led coalition.
The U.N. finding backed up the government claim. The U.N. said their investigation “found convincing evidence, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, and others, that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, 15 women and 15 men.”
“Fifteen other villagers were wounded or otherwise injured,” the U.N. said in a statement.
U.S.-led coalition troops, which were supporting Afghan commandos during the raid, said they believe that 25 militants, including a Taliban commander, and five civilians were killed during the Friday raid in Azizabad village of Herat province. The top coalition commander in the country has ordered an investigation.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters Monday that foreign forces in Afghanistan “take every precaution to try to avoid innocent civilian casualties.”
Asked about Karzai’s concerns about civilian casualties, Fratto said an investigation was under way. He said the Defense Department believes “it was a good strike.”
NATO and U.S. officials insist that they take great care in their targeting and accuse the militants of hiding in civilian areas, thus putting innocent people at risk.
The decision also comes a year ahead of Afghanistan’s presidential elections amid growing criticism that Karzai’s government is unable to contain the insurgency and deal with the deep-rooted corruption that afflicts officials in the government.
Karzai has said he will run in the election. No date has been set yet. [
Go here for the article at RawStory.]