West kills more civilians in Afghanistan airstrike

A coalition airstrike in a province north of Kabul killed at least two Afghan villagers on Wednesday morning, prompting President Hamid Karzai to order an official inquiry and escalating tensions yet again between the allies over civilian deaths. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/16/world/asia/us-afghan-tensions-increase-as-airstrike-kills-more-civilians.html?ref=world

The civilian deaths on Wednesday are likely to worsen the relationship between the Afghans and Americans, a partnership that seems to grow more strained with every passing week. Hamid Karzai’s recent order to release dozens of prisoners believed to have killed American forces, despite weeks of threats of a troop withdrawal by the United States, caused the latest dispute between the allies.

A spokesman for Mr. Karzai, Aimal Faizi, said eight civilians had been killed in the airstrike. “Of course, this is exactly about one of our conditions about the signing” of a long-term security agreement, he said, “but it seems like it is not understood. How many more innocent Afghans have to die so it gets the attention of U.S. officials?”

So heavy is the tension over the issue of civilian casualties that, after the episode in Parwan, the presidential palace, the coalition and even the Taliban released statements giving it their own spin.

The palace said it had appointed a fact-finding delegation that would report back with details in three days. The coalition, in addition to offering an apology for any civilian casualties, sought to offer context to the “Afghan-led” operation in its statement.

The Taliban, for their part, seized the opportunity to score a propaganda point. While the Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, sent a note to reporters saying that his email address had been hacked “by the enemy,” the insurgent group managed to put out a brief statement about the deaths.

“Last night foreign and local forces targeted and bombed civilian homes,” the statement said. “Four children and two women were martyred, and a number of them were wounded. The misery is still going on.”

Aziz Ahmad Zaki, a spokesman for the governor of Parwan, said that the coalition Special Operations advisers had come to assist the Afghan forces in the area, setting up alongside them in a district check post that quickly came under fire from Taliban attackers on Tuesday.

The fallout from the deaths remains to be seen. The early statement from the presidential palace was measured when compared with the outrage expressed after the civilian deaths in Helmand in late November. At the time, the president threatened to cancel the long-term security deal if such “arbitrary acts and oppression of foreign forces continue.”

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