Development News from Afghanistan

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Afghan rights body urges cut in foreign air raids

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By Sayed Salahuddin

Mon Jul 2, 4:09 AM ET

KABUL (Reuters) – Air strikes by foreign forces in Afghanistan have recently killed more civilians than the Taliban and the U.S.-led operation should cut them back, an Afghan rights group said on Monday.

Instead, NATO and U.S.-led coalition troops battling the Taliban and other insurgents should boost the number of their foot soldiers — already numbering nearly 50,000, Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission said.

In the latest incident involving civilian fatalities, Afghan officials said on the weekend that 45 civilians were killed in an air strike in the south of the country.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the toll from the pre-dawn raid was much lower.

The rising toll on civilians is proving a major irritant for President Hamid Karzai whose government is under fire for rampant corruption, growing insecurity and lack of economic development.

Civilian deaths caused by foreign forces have sparked protests demanding the expulsion of foreign troops and Karzai’s resignation.

“Air operations have killed more civilians than Taliban,” Nader Nadery, a commissioner with the rights group told Reuters.

“Certainly, reduction of air operations decreases civilian deaths for it is difficult to distinguish between military and non-military people.”

Foreign forces concede some civilian deaths but argue the Taliban are using civilians as human shields. Critics say they are not doing enough to minimize casualties among ordinary people.

Nearly seven years after the Taliban was overthrown in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States, the fundamentalist Islamic group has regained strength and is engaged in daily clashes with foreign troops.

Karzai, who was handpicked by Western powers after the Taliban’s removal and was elected in 2004, has repeatedly urged foreign forces to better coordinate operations with his government.

He has warned that civilian deaths would have bad consequences for his government.

A leading state-controlled paper highlighted Karzai’s warning on Monday.

“Repetition of such mistakes and occurrence of such events not only puts under question the credibility of the government, but also leads to the failure in the war against terrorism,” the Anis daily said.

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Written by afghandevnews

July 3, 2007 at 3:41 am

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