Relations with NATO strained over civilian deaths: KarzaiSeptember 4th, 2008 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS
Kabul, Sep 4 (DPA) Afghan President Hamid Karzai Thursday said relations with international forces backing his government have been strained because of the killing of civilians by the foreign troops and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.Karzai made the remarks during a visit to a village where more than 90 civilians were reported killed in a US air raid Aug 22.
He travelled to Azizabad village in Shindand district in the western province of Herat Thursday morning and met the families of the victims who were killed in a US-led coalition air raid, the presidential palace said in a statement.
The US military insisted that its operation, which was jointly conducted with Afghan commandos in the area, left 30-35 militants and up to seven civilians dead.
But an investigation team assigned by the Afghan government found that more than 90 civilians, including 60 children, were killed in the eight-hour aerial bombardment. A separate probe by UN officials confirmed the Afghan government’s figures.
“After the bombardments, in which 90 civilians were killed, our relations have been strained with the foreigners,” Karzai was quoted in the statement as saying.
“It has been five years that I have been working days and nights to avoid such incidents, but we have not been successful, if we were successful, today the sons of Azizabad would not be drowned in their blood,” Karzai said.
The president also assured the villagers that the “perpetrators of the incident will be brought to justice and will be punished”.
Karzai talked to US President George W. Bush by videoconference Wednesday and Bush expressed his sorrow and sympathy over the Shindand incident, a separate presidential palace statement said.
“During this conversation, both presidents discussed ways of preventing civilian casualties,” the statement said.
The Shindand incident angered the Afghan public and prompted Karzai to fire two Afghan army commanders in the western region, while his cabinet ordered a review of the status of foreign forces in the country.
Following the contradictory findings by the Afghan and US military officials, the top US commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, who commands the 53,000-strong NATO-led force in the country, suggested a joint probe into the incident.
The joint investigation, which was also approved by the Afghan government, would be conducted by the US military, the UN and Afghan government officials.