Nato’s top civilian official in Afghanistan says talks with armed group are still at an “embryonic” stage.
Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has met villagers of Masmut in eastern Laghman province in a bid to placate them over civilian deaths in a Nato raid last month.
Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, said that Karzai, along with senior government officials, offered the villagers condolences on Tuesday and vowed to invest in the region.
Locals had been angry over the raid on September 25, in which Nato said 30 Taliban fighters were killed. Villagers, however, say many of among the dead were civilians.
The villagers were expecting General David Petraeus, the senior US general in Afghanistan, at the meeting.
But Karzai’s spokesman said that General James Jones, deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) attended the meeting instead of Petraeus, who was unavailable.
Two investigations have already been conducted into the raid. While Isaf has not released the results of its investigation, the official Afghan investigation concluded that 13 civilians, some armed, were killed.
The deaths came amid rising public anger over civilian casualties in Nato raids.
According to the villagers, Nato forces had promised the villagers that they would not attack Masmut as long as the locals kept the Taliban out. With that agreement broken, they fired back at the soldiers during the raid.
Jones promised that the US and Nato would be more precise in their operations in the future and that there would be more co-ordination with Afghan forces.
Karzai’s meeting with the villagers took place on the same day that an explosion on a Nato helicopter in eastern Afghanistan killed one and wounded eight.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Casualties of war
Afghans have often blamed Nato for civilian deaths, including the killing of 52 civilians in a rocket strike in July in Helmand’s Sangin district.
An Afghan National Security Council investigation concluded that Isaf was responsible for the raid, but Nato has denied involvement.
A mid-year UN report painted a dark picture of security in Afghanistan in the first half of 2010, with violent civilian deaths jumping 31 per cent, although the total number caused by aerial attacks fell 64 per cent.
Our correspondent said that according to a new Red Cross report, admissions of those injured by the war to the Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar have doubled within the past year.
“The Red Cross didn’t just include those suffering from gunshot or shrapnel wounds,” Turton said.
“But included children who caught TB or tetanus because the fighting meant they weren’t vaccinated or women who died in childbirth because they couldn’t get medical help – casualties of war who the official statistics usually ignore.”