News & Current Affairs

August 23, 2008

Afghanistan criticizes US attack

Afghanistan criticizes US attack

By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, Kabul

US soldier in Afghanistan

The US counter-insurgency mission is trying to win local support

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized US forces for “unilateral operations” in the west which, the government says, killed at least 70.

A spokesman for the US task force, that operates outside Nato, said an inquiry was under way. They had initially denied any civilians had been killed.

Tribal elders said a bomb had been dropped on mourners at a wake in Herat.

Meanwhile, a local MP said Afghan security forces had fired on hundreds of people protesting against the raid.

He said they had killed at least one person and wounded two others.

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said initial findings were that 78 civilians had been killed in the US raid, including women and children, but this could not be fully verified and a delegation was investigating.

Mr Karzai’s statement said he had launched an investigation and had ordered various ministries to “prepare a comprehensive plan to prevent civilian casualties” which would be handed over to the coalition.

The US forces initially said they “remained confident” no civilians had been killed, something they said had been verified by Afghan security forces, but later added they were investigating and “every effort is made to prevent the injury or loss of innocent lives”.

The issue of civilian casualties has constantly been a source of friction between Mr Karzai and international forces.

The deaths of innocent people not only affects families and tribes of those killed, but impacts on the whole counter-insurgency mission, which is to try and win people’s support, not drive them against the government and the international presence in Afghanistan.

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August 20, 2008

Sarkozy renews Afghan commitment

Sarkozy renews Afghan commitment

President Sarkozy with President Karzai at the presidential palace in kabul

The French president insisted that France was committed to Afghanistan

President Sarkozy has pledged France’s continued commitment to Afghanistan after visiting French troops and meeting President Hamid Karzai.

He was speaking in Kabul after French troops suffered some of their worst casualties in recent times.

Ten French soldiers were killed and 21 injured in an ambush by Taleban fighters east of the capital, Kabul.

Mr Sarkozy said France was committed to the fight against terrorism, and  the mission in Afghanistan would continue.

‘Indispensable’

“Even though the toll is so high, you should be proud of what you are doing. The work that you’re doing here is indispensable,” Mr Sarkozy told his troops.

“We’re going to make sure that the means are put in place to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.” France has 2,600 troops serving in Afghanistan.

The 10 deaths brought to 24 the number of French troops killed in Afghanistan since 2002, the AFP news agency reports.

There was more violence on Afghanistan on Wednesday. A bomb went off in a busy market in the south-eastern province of Khost.

Officials say that in addition about 19 Taliban fighters were killed in two separate clashes in Khost and in the province of Paktia.

Tributes paid

The loss of life is thought to be the heaviest suffered by the French military since 58 paratroopers were killed in Beirut in 1983.

The arrival of Mr Sarkozy, who was accompanied by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Defense Minister Herve Morin, was marked by a flurry of helicopters across Kabul on Wednesday.

The cause is just, it is the honour of France and its armies to defend it
Nicolas Sarkozy
French president

On a brief visit on Wednesday, he saw the mortuary at the French camp in the capital and spoke to injured soldiers who were involved in the battle. He also held talks with President Hamid Karzai.

His message was one of support not just to the troops, but also to the Nato alliance and Mr Karzai.

The French deployment is not popular at home and the decision was made in April to send extra fighting troops to an even more dangerous part of the country, our correspondent adds.

Ambush

The French troops were caught up in fighting that started on Monday in the area of Sarobi, some 50km (30 miles) from Kabul.

French troops in Afghanistan (archive image from 2006)

Mr Sarkozy said the troops were killed in “an ambush of extreme violence”

French defence officials said about 100 soldiers – from France, the US and Afghanistan – were on a reconnaissance mission when bad road conditions forced them to stop their vehicles.

A group of French soldiers was sent ahead on foot to check the terrain, but they were ambushed by Taleban fighters and nine were killed.

A tenth French soldier was killed when his vehicle overturned on the road.

An Afghan intelligence officer told the BBC the troops were ambushed from several directions by heavily armed Taleban and al-Qaeda forces.

The fighting went on for 24 hours and it is understood that reinforcements had to be called in to airlift the troops to safety.

The deaths came amid warnings that insurgents are closing in on Kabul.

The French recently took over control of the Kabul regional command, which includes Sarobi.

ISAF REGIONAL COMMANDS AND TROOP NUMBERS
Map showing foreign troop deployments in Afghanistan

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