February 18, 2013

Leader: Afghan airstrike ban won't halt U.S.

The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan - The top American commander in Afghanistan said Sunday that he believes the U.S.-led NATO coalition can operate effectively despite the Afghan president's decision to ban Afghan security forces from requesting airstrikes in residential areas.

President Hamid Karzai on Saturday said he decided on the ban after Afghan security services asked the U.S. military for an airstrike during a joint Afghan-NATO operation last week.

Afghan officials said the airstrike killed 10 civilians, including women and children, in northeast Kunar province along with four insurgents.

The death of civilians during military operations, particularly in airstrikes, has been among the most divisive issues of the 11-year-old war.

The U.S.-led coalition has implemented measures to mitigate the death of civilians, but the Afghan military also relies heavily on air support to gain an upper hand in the fight against Taliban militants and other insurgents.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters during a briefing that he was working out the details of the ban with Afghanistan's defense minister and military chief.

"This is a sovereign nation and the president is exercising sovereignty," Dunford said, adding that NATO had "made extraordinary progress in mitigating risks to civilians and we will continue to do so."

 

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