The Associated Press & Al Jazeera America & RT News – 2013-11-30 01:06:04
(November 29, 2013) — The top US commander in Afghanistan apologized to President Hamid Karzai for a drone strike that killed a child and NATO promised an investigation Friday as rising tensions threatened efforts to persuade the Afghan leader to sign a long-delayed security agreement.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford called Karzai late Thursday to express “deep regrets for the incident and any civilian casualties,” the commander’s spokesman said.
The US-led international coalition in Afghanistan, known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), announced hours earlier that it is investigating an airstrike it launched that Afghan officials said killed a child and injured two women, leading to a condemnation of the attack by the country’s president.
ISAF reported Thursday’s airstrike also killed an insurgent in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
“The International Security Assistance Force confirms that an airstrike was conducted on a known insurgent riding a motorbike in Helmand,” ISAF said.
It added that it was also aware that Afghan authorities said “that in addition to the insurgent being killed, there was one child also killed and two women injured. ISAF, along with Afghan authorities, will immediately conduct an investigation into the incident.”
The coalition said it regretted any civilian casualties as a result of its airstrike and that it was “committed to ensuring that all measures are taken to prevent civilian casualties. Coalition officials will work with Afghan officials to determine what happened and why. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those killed or wounded.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized the coalition for civilian casualties from some airstrikes. Such incidents have fallen off sharply in recent years after stricter guidelines by NATO on the use of air power against ground targets.
Karzai has demanded an end to all such incidents along with a stop to all raids on Afghan homes by foreign forces as a condition for him to sign a long-delayed security deal with the United States.
He has already deferred signing a deal until his second and last term expires in April but has not completely excluded the possibility of doing so.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups are blamed for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties, most of which are caused by roadside bombs targeting Afghan or foreign forces.
They also have carried out attacks against government and elected officials as well as people working for the administration.
In one such attack Friday in Kabul, a suicide bomber wounded a parliament deputy at his home.
Claiming to be a constituent, the attacker detonated a bomb hidden in his turban when he entered the home of Hamidullah Tokhi, a deputy from southern Zabul province, Kabul police chief Mohammad Zahir said.
It was unclear why Tokhi was targeted, but he has been a vociferous critic of the Taliban and fought them when they ruled the country.
Zahir said Tokhi was hospitalized but was not seriously wounded. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, though the Taliban have used bombs hidden in turbans to carry out other suicide attacks.
In southern Kandahar, provincial spokesman Jaweed Faisal said a suicide bomber also tried to attack a NATO convoy but missed, instead killing a child and wounding three passers-by.
Karzai Condemns US Strike that Killed Toddler, Threatens Not to Sign Security Deal
(November 29, 2013) — President Hamid Karzai has blamed the US for a drone strike on a home in southern Afghanistan that killed a 2-year-old child and wounded two women, vowing that he will not sign a key bilateral security deal if such attacks continue.
“This attack shows that American forces are not respecting the life and safety of Afghan people’s houses,â€ Karzai said in the statement Thursday. “For years, our innocent people have become victims of the war under the name of terrorism, and they have had no safety in their homes.â€
Karzai made it clear that he will not sign the security agreement if such “oppressions by foreign forces continue.â€
The president stated that the airstrike was suspected to have been carried out by US “pilotless aircraftâ€ and targeted a house in Helmand Province. Karzai added that he received his information from the governor of the province, Mohammad Naem.
No details were provided by the US-led coalition about Thursday’s airstrike. But the NATO-led force in Afghanistan said it will investigate it, adding that it “deeply regrets” any civilian deaths that happened, according to Reuters.
The strike came as US and Afghanistan are in the midst of negotiating a bilateral security agreement that has so far not fleshed out the details about under what conditions US troops will stay in Afghanistan past the NATO forces’ pullout in 2014.
Last week US had thought it finalized the deal by proposing to leave 15,000 soldiers in Afghanistan to train and assist the country’s military. But, Karzai had doubts about signing the deal, expressing concerns over US meddling in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
This week, Karzai has called on the US to cease all military operations against civilian homes and show a clear dedication to the peace process before a security pact is signed.
Karzai set the conditions in a meeting with US National Security Advisor Susan Rice, the US envoy to the region and the NATO commander in Afghanistan, Reuters reported. “President Karzai outlined new conditions for signing the agreement and indicated he is not prepared to sign the BSA promptly,” the White House said.
The conditions included returning Afghan citizens from the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay as a clear step to launch the peace process ahead of the scheduled exit of most US and NATO forces beyond 2014.
Karzai’s new conditions for a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) come after he rejected the endorsement of the security deal by an assembly of Afghan elders on Sunday. The Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, recommended Karzai to sign the agreement.
Earlier, the US government said that if the deal with Afghanistan is not signed by the end of 2013 then it will have to begin withdrawing its troops completely starting next year.
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