Afghanistan Says International Force Promises to Reduce Civilian Casualties



Afghanistan's defense minister on Sunday said the Pentagon has pledged to take steps to reduce civilian casualties from aerial attacks against insurgents in the country. A strategic review of the war will also be conducted as Afghanistan gets permission to increase the number of its own troops. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kabul.

With domestic and international criticism mounting as the civilian death toll rises, Afghanistan's defense minister says the United States and other  international forces have promised to "do their best" to avoid such casualties from aerial bombings.

Abdul Rahim Wardak spoke to reporters on the grounds of the Defense Ministry about his recent visit to the Pentagon, where he met his U.S. counterpart and other American officials.    

"There has been an understanding to strategically review the conduct of war and other efforts in Afghanistan and also in the region," Wardak said.

Wardak is calling for less emphasis on heavy weaponry, better shared intelligence and greater use of Afghan forces to search for insurgents.  

The former Mujahideen commander also announced that the international community has authorized an increase in the size of the Afghan army to 134,000 troops.  There are more than 60,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.  

"There is definitely a need for more boots on the ground based on the present security situation," Wardak said.

The resurgent Taleban, ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001, are active in large parts of southern Afghanistan.

Defense Minister Wardak told reporters that the current war against them cannot be won only by military means.

The Sunday Times in London quotes the British commander in Afghanistan as also saying the Taleban cannot be defeated on the battlefield. The newspaper says Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, in an interview, told the newspaper that a political settlement is the best way to bring an end to the conflict.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked the king of Saudi Arabia to mediate such talks.  But a senior Taleban commander has rejected such negotiations with what he termed Afghanistan's "puppet" government.


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