Afghanistan, US sign deal to review civilian death

Afghanistan will join a major US review of the "war on terror", President Karzai announced amid tensions over reducing civilian deaths in US raids, atatcks.

Afghanistan, US sign deal to review civilian death

Afghanistan will join a major US review of the "war on terror", President Hamid Karzai announced Sunday amid tensions over containing measures aimed at reducing civilian deaths in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.

Karzai made the announcement after talks with US envoy Richard Holbrooke late Saturday as criticism from Afghanistan mounts over civilian casualties in US-led military operations.

Karzai criticized Obama who revealed this week that he had not been contacted by the new US leader since he took office in January, and said that there are questions about support for the Afghan leader in the US ahead of presidential elections due August.

The review, ordered by Obama last week, will look at both military and non-military aspects of U.S. policy as American and NATO troops struggle in Afghanistan against a growing Taliban insurgency that also threatens Pakistan.

Karzai welcomed a recent agreement by the US-led forces to take "specific measures" to reduce civilian casualties and stop night raids by pulling Afghans more closely into the planning and execution of military operations, reported Reuters. 

Holbrooke also said he welcomed the deal to include more Afghans in the planning and execution of counter-terrorism missions, a measure intended to reduce civilian casualties.

The review is to be completed before a NATO summit in April.

An Afghan delegation headed by the foreign minister will travel to Washington to give its input to the review, Karzai told reporters at an event attended by Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Holbrooke is visiting the Afghan capital after a four-day trip to neighbouring Pakistan. He said Obama welcomed Karzai's suggestion to participate in the review, which came after a similar request from Pakistan last week.

Karzai has complained time and again about the killing of Afghans by US-led foreign troops.

The document states that there will be an increase in co-operation between the two nations.

Afghan security personnel will play a greater role in the planning and undertaking of night time attacks, searches and operations in populated areas, particularly in tribal regions.

"This is a new page in the growing relations between Afghanistan and United States," foreign ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad Baheen said.

Tensions ovr civilian causualties

US president's remarks came after Karzai admitted on Saturday that he has not heard from the US president since Obama moved into the White House last month.

"There is tension between us and the US government on issues of civilian casualties, arrests of Afghans, nightly raids on homes and the casualties they cause," Karzai said yesterday.

"We are negotiating... I had to campaign for an end to civilian casualties because we are a sovereign country and the Afghan people expect their government to stand for them."

Afghanistan has criticised civilians killings in raids of US-led foreign troops.

The Taliban have regrouped and, despite the presence of nearly 70,000 international troops, in the last year increased both the scope and scale of their attacks against foreign and Afghan soldiers.

Air strikes which have killed hundreds of civilians have provoked anger among Afghans and resentment against the presence of foreign troops.

Karzai tries to ease Afghans' anger and gain their trust before elections.

Elections

Afghan opposition parties have questioned the decision to hold the polls then as the Afghan constitution says elections should be held by May 21, calling into question Karzai's legitimacy if he stays in office beyond that date.

The electoral law states however that the presidential term is five years, meaning Karzai should be able to remain in office either until October, five years after he won the last election, or until December, five years after he took office.

Diplomats say it is vital the issue is cleared up before May and that either Karzai stays on as caretaker president, or someone else takes office until the elections, which would be hard to bring forward due to poor security.

The decision to hold the elections in August "has the full backing of the Afghan government", Karzai said.

"You should be assured that we will take care of all issues and especially we will be very mindful of the issue of legitimacy and stability of the country," he said

There are nearly 70,000 foreign troops under NATO and U.S. command attending the occupation, attacking Taliban.

The United States is expected to nearly double its force in Afghanistan from 36,000 to more than 60,000 within 18 months.

Agencies

Last Mod: 15 Şubat 2009, 13:42
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