by Staff Writers
Kabul (AFP) Nov 29, 2011
NATO's US-led force in Afghanistan will retrain its troops by December 5 on how to avoid civilian casualties following fresh deaths, President Hamid Karzai's office said Tuesday.
The move comes with NATO already facing uncomfortable fallout after an air strike killed 24 Pakistani troops near the Afghan border on Saturday.
Karzai's office quoted a letter from force commander US General John Allen saying he had issued orders "for all units to conduct retraining on our methods of employing force against insurgents while protecting Afghan civilians."
"No later than 5 December, units will confirm to me that they have complied with these orders," it said.
The letter released by Karzai's office quoted Allen as saying that he had "initiated aggressive action" across the alliance force to investigate incidents of civilian casualties and to ensure they do not reoccur.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) could not immediately confirm the letter but is due to hold a news conference later.
There are around 140,000 foreign troops fighting a 10-year, Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, with around 100,000 from the United States.
Pakistan has cut off crucial supply routes to ISAF forces in Afghanistan in retaliation for Saturday's deadly cross-border air strike.
The issue of civilian casualties has repeatedly cropped up in the 10-year war in Afghanistan, fuelling tensions between Karzai and his Western backers.
Foreign troop commanders say the Taliban and other insurgents frequently hide among the local population in a bid to protect themselves, but forces operate under strict rules of engagement meant to minimise civilian casualties.
Karzai last week accused ISAF of killing seven people including six children in an air strike in Zhari district of the southern province of Kandahar.
On Sunday in the same district, three women died while one child and another woman were wounded when a coalition forces' mortar bomb hit a civilian house, the Kandahar governor's spokesman Zalmai Ayoubi said.
ISAF said it did not have any immediate information on that incident.
Allen wrote in July that he expected "every member of ISAF to be seized with the intent to eliminate civilian casualties caused by ISAF."
Earlier this month, Afghan elders held a meeting to discuss a strategic partnership with the US which will govern Kabul's relations with Washington after 2014, when all foreign combat troops are due to leave.
The loya jirga's stipulations for the deal included that Afghan security forces should lead all military operations, NATO night raids must end and US citizens committing crimes on Afghan soil should not be immune from prosecution.
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Pakistan steps up rhetoric over lethal NATO raid
Islamabad (AFP) Nov 28, 2011
Pakistan vowed no more "business as usual" with the United States after NATO strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, but stopped short Monday of threatening to break the troubled alliance altogether. NATO and the United States had sought to limit the fallout of Saturday's attack as Pakistan shut vital supply routes to the 140,000 foreign troops serving in Afghanistan and ordered a review of it ... read more
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