Afghans demand new ‘rules of force’

UN report backs Afghan inquiry that showed 90 civilians killed in air assault in Herat.

The cabinet also wants an end to illegal detentions and house searches [AFP]
The cabinet also wants an end to illegal detentions and house searches [AFP]

Based on UN investigations, it is the highest civilian death toll from international military action since US-led forces invaded in 2001 to remove the Taliban government.

“The destruction from aerial bombardment was clearly evident with some seven-eight houses having been totally destroyed and serious damage to many others,” Eide said.

“Local residents were able to confirm the number of casualties, including names, age and gender of the victims.”

The US-led coalition said Friday’s air raids were on Taliban fighters and 30 of them had been killed, although it is investigating claims of civilian casualties.

Cabinet resolution

A resolution adopted by Afghan ministers during Monday’s cabinet meeting said they had asked the foreign and defence ministries to negotiate with officials of international forces.

“The presence of the international community in Afghanistan must be reviewed through a mutual agreement,” it said.

“The authorities and responsibilities of the international forces in Afghanistan must be regulated through a ‘status of force agreement’ consistent with both international and Afghan laws.

“Air strikes on civilian targets, unco-ordinated house searches and illegal detention of Afghan civilians must be stopped.”

Nato said it had not been informed of any Afghan plan to renegotiate agreements.

Carmen Romero, a Nato spokeswoman, said that Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) was “in Afghanistan on the basis of a United Nations mandate and has been invited there by the government of Afghanistan”.

Meanwhile, France, as EU president, expressed “consternation” over the reported deaths and Russia urged coalition forces to prevent further loss of life.

Joanna Nathan, an analyst from the International Crisis Group, told Al Jazeera the cabinet resolution is “really a call for more transparency and accountability” by the US and Nato, when there are “terrible and tragic mistakes”.

“Throughout Afghanistan it raises deep concern and feeds into ideas of foreign resentment.”

“But the vast majority of Afghans are more scared of what would happen if they leave.”

Air force reliance

The attack in Herat on Sunday killed more than 90 civilians [FAP]

Daoud Sultanzoy, an Afghan MP, told Al Jazeera on Sunday that Nato should stop relying on air attacks when the Taliban are in villages and civilian areas.

“With either good or bad intelligence, the most important lesson to learn … is that we need to rely more on ground troops.

“Since Nato and the coalition don’t have these troops, the reliance on air support is greater.

“So, if they can increase their ground operations it would probably alleviate some of these problems.

“[The Taliban] don’t have offices,” he said.

“Regretfully, when a bombing takes place – an aerial bombing, or any kind of smart bombing – definitely, you will have regretful casualities.”

International presence

Nearly 70,000 international soldiers from about 40 countries are in Afghanistan with a mandate to fight the Taliban and bring security to the country.

About 53,000 troops are with Isaf, mandated by the UN, with a resolution extended annually since 2003.

The agreement is due to be extended in October.

The remainder are with US-led forces under the banner of Operation Enduring Freedom, which unseated the Taliban.

A May 2005, a bilateral agreement between the US and Afghanistan outlined the coalition’s operations including counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing and training the Afghan security forces.

France’s defence minister, Herve Morin, said on Tuesday that he may return special forces to Afghanistan. France withdrew them in January 2007, but has 3,000 troops serving in Isaf.

Morin’s comments came a week after 10 French soldiers were killed and 21 wounded, possibly due to friendly fire while fighting pro-Taliban elements.

Repeated discussions

The country’s rights group, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), told Al Jazeera that 900 civilians have been killed this year alone in attacks and international military action.

Up until June, the Taliban were responsible for the larger part of casualities, but recent raids by the US and Nato have meant “the balance has changed”, according to the AIHRC.

The country’s cabinet statement said the government had “repeatedly” discussed the problems of harrassment and civilian deaths with foreign troops.

“Unfortunately, our demands have not been addressed, rather, more civilians, including women and children, are losing their lives as a result of air raids,” it said.

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, who on Sunday sacked two army officers over the Herat killings, told members of parliament on Monday about the cabinet’s resolution and asked for a “national consensus” on the issue.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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