Sunday, January 25, 2009

Afghan President Karzai: US Forces Killed 16 Civilians

Karzai expressed his outrage over the killing of 16 civilians. He added that such actions make the Taliban and terrorists stronger. Anti-American demonstrations took place in Afghanistan today.
KABUL, Afghanistan January 25, 2009, 07:13 am ET · President Hamid Karzai condemned a U.S. operation he said killed 16 Afghan civilians, while hundreds of villagers denounced the American military during an angry demonstration Sunday.
Karzai said the killing of innocent Afghans during U.S. military operations "is strengthening the terrorists."
He also announced that his Ministry of Defense sent Washington a draft technical agreement that seeks to give Afghanistan more oversight over U.S. military operations. The same letter has also been sent to NATO headquarters.
Karzai in recent weeks has increasingly lashed out at his Western backers over the issue of civilian casualties, even as U.S. politicians and a top NATO official have publicly criticized Karzai for the slow pace of progress here.
The back-and-forth comes as the new administration of President Barack Obama must decide whether to support Karzai as he seeks re-election later this year as part of the United States' overall Afghan strategy.
Karzai's latest criticism follows a Saturday raid in Laghman province that the U.S. says killed 15 armed militants, including a woman with an RPG, but that Afghan officials say killed civilians.
Two women and three children were among the 16 dead civilians, Karzai said in a statement.
In Laghman's capital, hundreds of angry demonstrators denounced the U.S. military Sunday and demanded an end to overnight raids. U.S. military leaders, victims' relatives and Afghan officials — including two top Karzai advisers — met at the governor's compound to discuss the issue, Gov. Latifullah Mashal said.
"The U.S. military said 'We are sorry for this incident and after this we are going to coordinate our operations with Afghan forces,'" Mashal said.
Civilian deaths during U.S. operations have been a huge point of friction between the Afghan government and U.S. and NATO militaries. Many of the deaths happen on overnight raids by U.S. Special Forces who launch operations against specific insurgent leaders.
A U.S. investigative team that had planned to travel to the village — 40 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of the capital, Kabul — was canceled Sunday because of bad weather. U.S. military spokesman Col. Greg Julian said American officials hoped to visit the site on Tuesday, weather permitting.
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