Afghan president issues “last warning to NATO”
The tensions in Afghanistan are growing deeper again, after a suspected NATO strike killed a group of civilians in southern Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has already condemned the killing, describing his statement as a last warning to the coalition. While the most civilian deaths are caused by insurgent attacks, but Afghan people remain extremely sensitive to any killings of locals by foreign soldiers. While coalition commanders have to offer their “sincere apologies”, they simply may not be enough to solve the problem. Meanwhile the recent death of Gen Mohammad Daud Daud, the police commander for northern Afghanistan, allegedly killed by Taliban, demonstrates the poor ability of the Afghan forces when it comes to controlling the situation on their own.
“See, they aren’t Taliban” – chanted the protesters from Sera Cala village, showing the bodies of dead children, some as young as two years old, to journalists. A group of villagers travelled to Lashkar Gah – the capital of the province, bringing the bodies of 8 dead children to the governor’s mansion.
The air strike came as a response to an insurgents’ attack on a US Marine base in Helmand's Now Zad district which resulted in the death of one American soldier. Maj. Gen. John Toolan heads the International Security Assistance Force's command in southwest Afghanistan. According to his statement five attackers moved into the compound, continuing to fire, so the air strike was ordered to "to neutralize the threat".
"Unfortunately, the compound the insurgents purposefully occupied was later discovered to house innocent civilians," said Toolan.
The incident was condemned by Hamid Karzai, who stressed that he had repeatedly asked the coalition officials to stop raids, which too often ended up killing civilians.
"The president called this incident a great mistake and the murdering of Afghanistan's children and women, and on behalf of the Afghan people gives his last warning to the US troops and US officials in this regard," says President’s office.
The White House responded to the words of the Afghan leader, stating that it takes his call "very seriously". Meanwhile Gen. John Toolan didn’t content himself with an apology "on behalf of the coalition", and even pleaded with the Afghans to continue working together with coalition forces. "I ask that the Afghan people continue to trust and assist their security forces, so that together we can stop the senseless killing brought upon us by an enemy who wants to exploit the Afghan people through fear and violence." Unfortunately, to Afghans this call may sound like nothing but mockery.
NATO airstrikes have become a major source of constantly growing outrage both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Dozens of civilians fell victim to airstrikes just recently. While the leaders of both countries keep calling on coalition commanders to stop the strikes, NATO officials keep delivering formal apologies. No earlier than in March, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had to offer a personal apology to Afghan President Karzai for the killings of nine boys in a helicopter attack targeting insurgents.
While it is still unclear what will follow the last warning of the Afghan leader, it is obvious that the situation is critical. The officials of both sides can’t even agree on the number of victims. While NATO spokesmen claim there are 9, Karzai insists that the air strike killed 10 children, 2 women and 2 men.
While the deadline for the troops’ withdrawal is approaching, it could hardly bring any relief for the Afghan people. The recent Taliban attack took the life of Gen Mohammad Daud Daud, the police commander for northern Afghanistan. The governor of the Takhar Takhar province, Abdul Jabar Taqwa, said the death of Daud is the fault of intelligence officials, who knew about the planned attack and even had the phone number of a suicide bomber but failed to catch him.
After the withdrawal of coalition troops, the Afghan people who now condemn the NATO presence in their country would only be left with the protection of local security forces. And, as the recent incident demonstrates, their ability to ensure order and security is questionable.