Afghan president Hamid Karzai has signed a decree prohibiting members of the Afghan security forces from requesting NATO airstrikes during operations in residential areas.
Karzai promised to issue the ban two days ago, and signed it on Monday, amidst anger over a NATO airstrike requested by the national intelligence service that local officials said killed at least 10 civilians and four fighters in northeastern Kunar province.
“No Afghan security forces, under any circumstances, any circumstances, can ask for the foreigners’ planes for carrying out operations on our homes and villages”, Karzai said at a Sunday press conference.
The presidential order is directed at the defence and interior ministries, and the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan spy agency.
It states: “During your operations, do not call for air support from international forces during operations on residential areas.” The coalition, however, can still carry out airstrikes on its own accord.
No further details were provided.
‘Other than air ordnance’
General Joseph Dunford, the US commander in Afghanistan, said he believes the American-led NATO coalition can operate effectively under the terms of the ban.
Dunford said Karzai’s decision was in line with a tactical directive issued last year by General John Allen, Dunford’s predecessor, which was aimed at mitigating civilian casualties. He said coalition forces believe they can conduct “effective operations within the president’s guidance.”
“There are other ways we can support our Afghan partners other than air ordnance,” Dunford said without elaborating.
The US-led military coalition said last June that it would use airstrikes only in self-defence, as a weapon of last resort, and would avoid hitting structures that could house civilians.
That followed a bombardment that killed 18 civilians celebrating a wedding in eastern Logar province, which drew an apology from the US commander.
The United Nations mission in Afghanistan said that 83 civilians were killed and 46 wounded in aerial attacks by international military forces in the first half of 2012.
Karzai’s decree was preceded by a NATO statement that an Afghan soldier who killed his US counterpart, in a so-called “insider attack” in eastern Afghanistan last year, was killed in last week’s Kunar province airstrike.
NATO identified the man as Mahmood, and said that he and an accomplice, identified only as Rashid, were killed in eastern Kunar province’s Ghaziabad district.
No other details were provided.
Mahmood is thought responsible for the May 11 killing of US army lieutenant Alejo Thompson, who died during an insider attack on a base in the northeastern province. The attack also wounded two US soldiers.
Mahmood, in his twenties, later fled the scene. The Taliban said he joined the armed opposition group.