Conflict & Justice

NATO agrees to Karzai air strike ban in Afghanistan


NATO has agreed to heed calls by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to halt air strikes in civilian areas.


Mandel Ngan

NATO said that it has accepted Afghan President Hamid Karzai's decree to halt air strikes in residential areas.

Karzai has been an opponent of NATO air strikes for years, saying that the civilian deaths were counterproductive in fighting the Taliban.

His call to ban the strikes was made again last week after 10 civilians were killed in a night raid in Kunar province by US-led NATO troops.

The commander of NATO forces, General Joseph Dunford, who has only been in his job for one week, committed to implementing the ban on the grounds of respecting Afghan sovereignty, reported BBC.

He said Afghanistan is "a sovereign nation and the president is exercising sovereignty," the British news agency quoted him as saying.

Air strikes have been a key component in the war against the Taliban.

Afghan forces have come to rely on NATO war planes for cover, often calling in the strikes themselves - a fact that the New York Times said dismayed Karzai given his calls for NATO troops not to call in the bombings.

The issue reached a climax last July when eighteen civilians were killed in a wedding party.

At the time, NATO implemented new rules limiting air strikes, said the Los Angeles Times.

The move saw civilian casualties cut in half between 2011 and 2012.

NATO is winding down its operations in Afghanistan after having trained 350,000 Afghan security forces to take control of the country by 2014.