NATO offensive causes too many Afghan civilian deaths: Karzai

Karzai said innocent Afghan people keep dying during offensive of NATO that argues coalition forces had made civilians' safety "their priority".

NATO offensive causes too many Afghan civilian deaths: Karzai

Karzai said innocent Afghan people keep dying during offensive of NATO that argues coalition forces had made civilians' safety "their priority".

Meanwhile, Taliban on Sunday rejected Karzai's latest call for talks.

Karzai used a conference in London last month to repeat a call for reconciliation with his "disenchanted brothers" in the Taliban. He has since travelLed to Saudi Arabia to seek help.

At the conference on Afghanistan in London in January, donor nations backed his plans and pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to persuade fighters to lay down weapons.

Karzai renewed his appeal in parliament on Saturday for the Taliban to accept his proposal.

Taliban insurgents have long said they are willing to negotiate only if more than 110,000 foreign troops occupying Afghanistan leave the country first. Karzai repeatedly rejected the demand.

"Karzai is a puppet he cannot represent a nation or a government," said Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf, commenting on Karzai's call for the Taliban.

"He is bogged down in corruption and is surrounded by warlords who are making themselves rich."

First major crack

"In Marjah, determined resistance is again reported in some areas. The Regional Command-South commander believes the clearing phase is progressing well and will take at least 30 days to complete," said the International Security Assistance Force.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's coalition government collapsed on Saturday when the two largest parties failed to agree on whether to withdraw troops from Afghanistan this year as planned.

The fall of the government in the EU country, just two days short of the coalition's third anniversary, all but guarantees that the 2,000 Dutch troops will be brought home this year. That would be the first major crack in the coalition of some 40 nations invading Afghanistan.

NATO is pushing ahead with one of its largest assaults in Afghanistan since the start of the invasion.

Three senior Taliban officials were siezed in Pakistan this month, including the group's number 2 and top military commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar -- the highest profile Taliban leader to be held.

Taliban fighters remain defiant, digging in for a fight to the death against an assault that tests U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy of sending 30,000 more troops to seize insurgent-held areas before a planned 2011 troop drawdown begins.

Yousuf questioned how 15,000 NATO and Afghan troops with air support could not sweep through Marjah, the focus of the offensive, in Helmand province in the south.

"Our resistance is going on unabatedly day and night. They (troops) are facing resistance in all corners of Marjah, he said.

NATO says 12 of its troops have died in the fighting since the offensive started eight days ago. Yousuf said the Taliban have lost 14 fighters.

"Nato's civilian killings"

The president has urged international troops to try harder to prevent civilian deaths during the offensive.

The total number of civilians killed in Operation Moshtarak has risen to 16, and the funeral of a civilian said to have been killed in a Nato raid four days ago was held on Saturday.

At the opening session of the Afghan parliament in Kabul, Karzai said NATO's efforts to prevent civilian deaths during its operations were insufficient because innocent people keep dying.

"Fighting remains difficult in the northeast and west of Marjah, but insurgent activity is not limited to those areas," NATO said in a statement.

But Marjah residents are also dealing with the toll of the fighting. In a cemetery marked by green and white flags in Helmand's provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, men buried one Marjah resident who died of injuries sustained in what his brother said was a coalition bombing three days ago.

In his parliament appearance, Karzai held up a picture of an 8-year-old girl who he said was the only one left to recover the bodies of her 12 relatives, all killed when two NATO rockets struck their home during the offensive in the southern town of Marjah.

But he also acknowledged that NATO has made "progress" in reducing civilian casualties and airstrikes — which have been responsible for some of the largest incidents of civilian deaths. And he thanked NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who attended the speech, for "standing with us honestly in this effort."

However, Karzai stressed that the effort is not sufficient.

"We need to reach the point where there are no civilian casualties," Karzai said. "Our effort and our criticism will continue until we reach that goal."

Washington is sending 30,000 more troops this year and other nations are sending some 7,000.

Agencies

 

Related news reports:

Afghan civilians dead as NATO offensive enters second day

Last Mod: 21 Şubat 2010, 15:17
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