Afghan President Karzai Calls for an End to Airstrikes
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan issued an impassioned call for the end of international airstrikes in his country on Tuesday, branding them as an “illegitimate use of force” and saying that the need to protect civilian life demanded a complete halt to those operations, even in cases when troops are under attack.
Hours later, the allied commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John R. Allen, reiterated significant changes to rules concerning the use of airstrikes announced earlier this week, issuing a statement in which he said he had given the order that “no aerial munitions be delivered against civilian dwellings.” But he added the caveat that the strikes would be permitted as an absolute last resort in self-defense “if no other options are available.”
The issue of airstrikes and civilian casualties is again figuring into tensions between the Americans and Afghans after an allied strike in Logar Province this month killed 18 people, including 9 children. A meeting of officials from both countries over the weekend led to the announcement of new restrictions on the use of allied airpower.
But Mr. Karzai’s language on Tuesday went further still. He insisted that as far as his government was concerned, “an agreement has been reached clearly with NATO that no bombardment of civilian homes is allowed for any reason.” Mr. Karzai spoke in response to a question at a news conference, adding that coalition forces could not use airstrikes “even when they are under attack.”