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Karzai: U.S. failed to consult Afghans on airstrike

By Heidi Vogt and Rahim Faiez,

KABUL — Afghanistan’s president said Saturday that the United States failed to consult Afghan forces when it called in an airstrike that killed 18 civilians, and he warned that his government will consider such actions in the future to be in violation of the country’s pact with Washington.

In the east, meanwhile, a Taliban suicide bomber disguised as a woman wearing a burqa killed four French soldiers when he blew himself up in a market.

Presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said President Hamid Karzai met with investigators earlier in the day and concluded that U.S. troops called in Wednesday’s strike without coordinating with Afghan units.

The incident occurred during a nighttime raid on militants taking cover in a house in a village in Logar province. Karzai has long objected to such raids, saying they put civilians at risk of injury or death. Military officials say they are key to capturing and killing Taliban leaders.

The United States and Afghanistan signed an agreement in April that put the Afghan government in charge of most such “special operations,” a move designed to resolve some of the long-standing tensions.

Faizi said investigators told Karzai that Afghan forces surrounded the house in question but that the U.S. troops decided not to wait for them to try to flush out the militants, calling in aircraft instead. They discovered later that there had also been women, children and elderly men inside.

“This airstrike was a one-sided decision,” Faizi said, adding that Karzai and his advisers decided after hearing the report that they would consider such actions in the future as a breach of the special-operations pact.

According to a separate statement issued by the president’s office, Karzai met with the top U.S. military commander in the country and the U.S. ambassador and told them that there had been multiple incidents since the signing of the broad long-term partnership last month in which international airstrikes had killed or injured civilians.

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan apologized Friday for the civilian deaths in Logar, and a NATO investigation ruled that the coalition forces were responsible for the unintended deaths of civilians.

A spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan declined to comment on the Afghan findings but said the country’s forces had approved the larger Logar operation.

“This was an Afghan/coalition operation,” Col. Gary Kolb said. Kolb and U.S. Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall declined to comment on whether the special-operations pact had been violated in the Logar incident.

The attack on the French forces took place as they were responding to a report of a bomb planted under a bridge in the main market area of Kapisa province’s Nijrab district, said Qais Qadri, a spokesman for the provincial government. The bomber walked up to the soldiers and detonated his explosives, Qadri said. In addition to the four soldiers killed, five French troops and four Afghan civilians were reportedly wounded.

The Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack in an e-mail.

— Associated Press

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