Afghanistan, US agree to avoid civilian deaths

February 14th, 2009 - 4:56 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanKabul, Feb 14 (Xinhua) Afghanistan and the US-led Coalition said Saturday they would work in harmony to avoid civilian casualties in the war-ravaged country.

“In an ongoing endeavour to … develop Afghan capability to defeat terrorists and adversaries, the officials have agreed to include more Afghan representatives in the planning and execution of counter-terrorism missions,” a joint press release said.

“There will be better coordination to minimise risk of civilian casualties and ensure Afghans search Afghans and conduct arrest operations,” it said.

The statement noted that maintaining the support of the Afghan people “is essential to defeating the terrorists”.

This agreement follows strong criticism of growing civilian casualties in the war on the Taliban.

The statement was issued after a series of discussions between Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and US General David McKiernan, the commander of both US and NATO troops serving in Afghanistan.

According to reports, 1,445 civilian casualties have been recorded in the first eight months of 2008, an increase by almost 39 percent compared to the 1,040 civilian deaths in the same period a year ago.

In a stern warning last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai had said that civilian casualties would not be tolerated any more.

He also stressed that search of suspected houses must be conducted by Afghans or in coordination with Afghan authorities.

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