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    Karzai bans Afghan forces from seeking airstrikes

    KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai, in an effort to minimise civilian fatalities, said on Saturday Afghan forces would be barred from seeking air support from NATO-led troops during operations in rural areas.

    An air raid by ISAF that killed 10 civilians in eastern Kunar province near the Pakistan border on Wednesday had been conducted at the request of local security personnel, the president told a conference at the National Military Academy in Kabul.

    Five children, four women, a man and three insurgent commanders were killed in the raid on a militant hideout in the Shegal district. The airstrike was conducted during a joint operation by Afghan and NATO-led forces in Chogan village.

     “It’s a matter of shame for us that our spy agency (National Directorate of Security) seeks air support from foreigners against four individuals on our own soil,” he remarked, voicing his deep shock over the civilian fatalities.

    With the Kunar collateral damage under investigation, Karzai announced that he would issue a decree on Sunday, stopping Afghan forces from requesting air support from the coalition.

    "Tomorrow, I will issue a decree that under no conditions can Afghan forces request foreign air strikes on Afghan homes and villages during operations," Karzai said at the conference, attended by more than 1,000 officers, commandos and students.

    While renewing his call for an end to war, the president accused the Taliban of using foreign-supplied weapons against their own country. He alleged the militants were promoting the interests of outsiders at the expense of their countrymen.

    Without naming anyone, he said foreigners were trying to deprive Afghanistan of having a strong government, a viable system, a trained army and educated youth.

    On the post-2014 situation, the president said afghan forces were capable of defending their motherland. “To us, 2014 will be Nawroz (Afghan New Year); it will be springtime, there will be a bloom across our country…”

    About 100,000-strong foreign forces, nearly 66,000 of them American, are currently stationed in the country. Under President Barack Obama's drawdown plan, 34,000 US troops will return home within a year.

    He insisted the people were happy about the planned pullout of international troops. “Fortunately, they are leaving soon; we have encouraged them to withdraw and show the world that we can secure our home on our own.”

    Karzai ordered the national security personnel to behave well with civilians. Afghan soldiers recently stormed in the Tagab district of Kapisa province and forced inmates out, he said, calling for an end to the use of force against the masses.

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