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Gen. Dunford backs Karzai's decree on air raidsBy Meer Agha Nasrat Samimi Feb 17, 2013 - 23:51
KABUL (PAN): The top commander of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan on Sunday supported President Hamid Karzai’s intention to ban government forces from requesting airstrikes during operation in rural areas.
The operations could still be successful, ISAF Commander Gen. Joseph Dunford told journalists in Kabul on Sunday. He promised continued support to Afghan partners within the framework suggested by Karzai.
President Karzai, in an effort to minimise civilian fatalities, said on Saturday Afghan forces would be barred from seeking air support from ISAF. A coalition raid that killed 10 civilians in eastern Kunar province on Wednesday had been conducted at the request of local security personnel, the president said.
Five children, four women, a man and three insurgent commanders were killed in the raid on a militant hideout in the Shigal 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 deep shock over the civilian fatalities.
Gen. Dunford, who is to meet Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi and Chief of Army Staff Gen Sher Mohammad Karimi on the technical" aspects of the presidential directive, said they were willing to support their Afghan partners in line with Karzai’s intent.
He said there were other ways of ISAF troop supporting their Afghan counterparts. "I believe we will provide the support to the Afghan forces consistent with the coalition tactical directive."
Just a week after taking over as ISAF commander, the US general claimed the NATO-led force had made "extraordinary progress in mitigating the risk to civilians".