Sunday, November 06, 2016

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai denounces deadly NATO airstrikes - Washingtonpost

 Hamid Karzai, the former Afghan president, was in high dudgeon Friday morning. His children were playing hide-and-seek on the lawn outside his book-lined study, and a waiter had brought in trays of tea and cakes, but his mind was on a deadly NATO airstrike that killed 30 civilians in northern Kunduz province early Thursday.

“I spoke to the families yesterday. I saw the photos of the victims. There were children from 6 months to toddlers, near-teens and elders. Why?” Karzai demanded angrily. A few moments later, he turned to an aide and asked, “Was there any mention of this mass tragedy on CNN, on BBC? I didn’t see anything.” 

Karzai, 58, has railed for years against U.S. military bombings and resulting civilian casualties in the war against Taliban insurgents, and the issue virtually destroyed his relationship with the Obama administration. It was the main reason he refused to sign a bilateral security agreement with Washington before leaving office in 2014, and it remains his personal obsession in political retirement. 

The exact events in Kunduz were still unclear Friday, but Afghan officials confirmed an updated death toll of 30 civilians and at least 25 wounded in airstrikes launched outside the embattled provincial capital after a firefight with Taliban forces. Two U.S. service members were killed in the battle, along with three Afghan commandos and three Taliban fighters.

U.S. military officials have said the strikes were conducted by NATO aircraft but have not said whether the pilots were American or Afghan.

He was especially critical of the ongoing security relationship between the United States and Pakistan, which he denounced as “the source” of insurgent attacks. During his presidency, Karzai met often with Pakistani leaders to improve ties but became deeply disillusioned. He said those who sought peace with Afghanistan were stymied by other forces. “They want to own us,” he said.

“I am not an anti-Western person, but what has made me outspoken and angry at America are the casualties,” he said. “Just show me one example of a bombing that has taken Afghanistan one step closer to peace. Fifteen years on, do we have more Taliban or less, more radicalization or less, more terror or less? Is this really a war against terror, or is it something else in which the lives of Afghans don’t matter?”

Karzai has been criticized as trying to interfere in Afghan politics, possibly with an eye toward returning to power. In the interview, he insisted that he had no wish to return to office and said that under the constitution, Ghani should have full authority to govern for a full five-year term. - Read More


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