Wednesday, June 1, 2011

NATO defends air strikes in Afghanistan

A scene of a US-led strike in Afghanistan

Source: Press TV

The US-led military alliance has forcefully defended its night raids on Afghan homes, despite the growing number of civilian deaths and an angry reaction by Afghan president.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said on Tuesday that its air strikes on residential areas in Afghanistan were necessary.

Earlier, President Hamid Karzai had warned US-led foreign forces that if the attacks continue, NATO would risk becoming an occupying force.

Karzai's warning follows recent US-led air strikes in Helmand and Nuristan provinces that claimed the lives of more than 60 Afghans.

"The foreign troops promised to protect us against the militants, but now they are killing innocent people. We want them to leave the country immediately," said an Afghan who was present at the scene of the US-led strike in Nawzad district.

Karzai said on Sunday such incidents are "murdering Afghanistan's children and women."

He also ordered the Afghan ministry of defense to prevent foreign troops from uncoordinated and arbitrary operations across the country. Karzai also demanded that such raids as well as special operations should be conducted by Afghan troops.

The Afghan Interior Ministry has said that NATO forces were violating a security agreement based on which all NATO operations in Kabul must be cleared with the Kabul government.

Afghans say the US-led forces disregard local culture and have targeted hundreds of civilians in different parts of the war-torn country.

Civilian casualties caused by NATO attacks have been a major source of tension between Karzai and the US-led alliance.

The attacks have killed large numbers of Afghan civilians since the beginning of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Civilians have been the main victims of violence in Afghanistan, particularly in the country's troubled southern and eastern provinces, where they are killed by both militants and foreign fire.

Despite the presence of about 150,000 foreign troops, violence in Afghanistan last year reached its deadliest phase with record casualties on all sides, including civilian deaths.

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