By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
KABUL, Afghanistan – On Wednesday, President Barrack Obama met with Afghan and Pakistan presidents and reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to defeating the al Qaeda while minimizing civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
“[L]et me be clear — the United States has made a lasting commitment to defeat al Qaeda but also to support the democratically elected sovereign governments of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. That commitment will not waiver and that support will be sustained.” Obama said in a statement.
However, U.S.-led airstrikes in the Farah province in southern Afghanistan on Monday and Tuesday resurrected Karzai and Zardari’s fears of violence among his citizens. The Red Cross stated that dozens of civilians were killed. Meanwhile, local officials say that at least 100 have perished.
The airstrike occurred in two villages over several hours. In a joint investigation by the U.S. and Afghanistan into the number of casualties revealed that “villagers had taken refuge in a number of houses in each village. Reports also indicate that Taliban fighters deliberately forced villagers into houses from which they then attacked ANSF (Afghan security forces) and Coalition forces.”
The team confirmed that “a number of civilians were killed” but could not determine the number of casualties between militants and civilians since the bodies were buried. The investigations are continuing.
The U.S. dismissed accusations that more than 100 civilians were killed, placing the blame on militants who used villagers as “human shields.”
“We deeply, deeply regret that loss,” U.S. Secretary of State Clinton said of the civilian deaths. She expressed that despite the deaths, much progress resulted from the meeting with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On Friday, Karzai urged the U.S. to put a stop to the airstrikes. He said “we cannot justify in any manner, for whatever number of Taliban, for whatever number of significantly important terrorists, the accidental or otherwise loss of civilians.”
For more information, please see:
Associated Press – U.S.-Afghan Probe Confirms Civilian Deaths in Battle – 9 May 2009
BBC News – Afghan Death Toll Not Confirmed – 9 May 2009
Reuters – U.S. Committed to Defeating al Qaeda – 7 May 2009