Karzai seeks to limit Nato airstrikes

Nato countered that airstrikes on houses are essential and will continue, setting up a possible confrontation with Karzai. The president’s remarks followed a recent strike that mistakenly killed a group of children and women in Helmand province. Karzai declared it would be the last.

“From this moment, airstrikes on the houses of people are not allowed,” Karzai told reporters in Kabul.

Ordering airstrikes is a command decision in Afghanistan. A Nato spokeswoman there, Maj Sunset Belinsky, insisted they would continue. “Coalition forces constantly strive to reduce the chance of civilian casualties and damage to structures,” Belinsky said, “but when the insurgents use civilians as a shield and put our forces in a position where their only option is to use airstrikes, then they will take that option.” In Brussels, Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu insisted airstrikes are essential. She said the alliance takes Karzai’s concerns seriously and would continue to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties. She said airstrikes on houses are coordinated with Afghan forces.

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