Karzai calls for end to NATO air strikes

Updated: Monday, 18 Feb 2013 11:11

Afghan security forces will be banned from calling for NATO air strikes in residential areas to help in their operations.

President Hamid Karzai has expressed his anger about a NATO air strike three days ago in which ten civilians died.

NATO air strikes and civilian casualties have become a significant stress point in the relationship between Mr Karzai and his international backers.

The issue threatens to further destabilise a precarious international withdrawal, to be completed by the end of 2014.

The new NATO commander in Afghanistan has said the organisation will work with the country’s defence leadership to implement the ban.

In his first meeting with reporters since assuming command of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) a week ago, General Joseph Dunford said he would work out the details of how to implement Mr Karzai's order.

"We got the broad guidance from the president, and we will work out the details in the coming days," he said.

President Karzai's decree was expected to be issued on Sunday and paralleled a "tactical directive" issued by ISAF in June last year, which forbade international troops from using air strikes against insurgents "within civilian dwellings", Gen Dunford said.

That directive was issued days after 18 civilians were killed during a NATO air strike in eastern Logar province.

A meeting was planned between Gen Dunford, Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and Afghan Chief of Army Staff General Sher Mohammad Karimi later to discuss the ban's "technical aspects", he said.

NATO air strikes that cause civilian casualties have become a significant stress point in relations between Mr Karzai and his international backers as the US and Afghanistan enter negotiations about the size of the US presence once most international troops depart by the end of next year.

The limiting of air strikes will place further pressure on the 352,000-strong Afghan security forces as they assume security control from international forces.

Foreign air power is crucial for Afghan forces in areas near Pakistan's border, like Kunar and Nuristan, which are covered with forests and rough terrain, making ground operations difficult.