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January 15, 2014

Afghan President Rebukes US on Military Strike

by VOA News

Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out at the United States Wednesday over a joint U.S.-Afghan military operation in an eastern province that he says killed eight civilians, including seven children.

In a statement, Karzai accused President Barack Obama of not honoring earlier pledges to limit U.S. military operations near civilians in his embattled homeland.

The U.S.-led military coalition (ISAF) confirmed the incident, but said in a statement the military operation in Parwan province was planned by Afghan Special Forces.  It also said insurgents opened fire on the joint mission, sparking a firefight so intense that it required an airstrike.  It said two civilians were killed in the exchange, along with 10 insurgents and one coalition soldier.

Relations between the Kabul government and Washington have deteriorated steadily over Karzai's refusal to sign a security agreement that would determine the scope of U.S. military involvement in the country beyond December 2014, when most other foreign troops are set to leave.

In November, a draft agreement was announced that would allow up to 15,000 coalition troops to remain in the country for 10 years.  The residual force could include 8,000 to 10,000 U.S. troops.

However,  Karzai says he will not sign the pact until Washington promises to stop raids and airstrikes that cause civilian casualties.  He also wants the United States to launch direct peace talks with Taliban militants.

Critics of Karzai warn that his refusal could trigger a full U.S. withdrawal this year, even though many Western analysts believe the Kabul government would rapidly collapse without an ongoing coalition presence.