NATO airstrike kills 21 civilians in Afghanistan.
A NATO air strike has mistakenly killed 21 Afghan civilians and injured another 14, a spokesman for Afghanistan's interior ministry said Monday, as the commander of the NATO troops said that Kandahar will likely be the next target of anti-Taliban operations.
The incident happened in central Uruzgan province on Sunday when three vehicles were bombed, said Zemarai Bashary.
"As a result of the air strike, according to initial information, 21 civilians were killed, including women and children, and another 14 were injured," he told AFP. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement civilians had been killed as they approached a joint NATO-Afghan unit in Uruzgan province on Sunday, but did not say how many.
Civilian casualties have been a major cause of friction between the Afghan government and foreign forces in Afghanistan, who have launched two big offensives in the past eight months in a bid to turn the tide of a growing Taliban-led insurgency.
The NATO commander in Afghanistan meanwhile was quoted as saying Monday that the southern province of Kandahar was likely to be the next target of operations to eradicate the Taliban.
U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, commander of 121,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, said a major offensive now in its second week in a poppy-growing valley in Helmand province was a "model for the future."
Helmand and neighboring Kandahar -- where Kandahar city was once the Taliban capital -- have been the main hotspots of the insurgency launched soon after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Islamists' 1996-2001 regime.
NATO and Afghan officials have said that Operation Mushtarak (Together) under way in Helmand is a template for expanding the campaign to at least three other Taliban-held areas of the province.
McChrystal was quoted by Britain's The Times newspaper as telling reporters that operations will also move into Kandahar, although he did not specify any areas.
"We are going to go to where significant parts of the population are at risk and Kandahar is clearly very, very important not just to the south but to the nation," he said, adding: "It is not the only area though."
Some 15,000 U.S., NATO and Afghan troops are facing some strong resistance from Taliban fighters in the Marjah and Nad Ali areas of the central Helmand River valley, slowed by snipers and hidden bombs.
Operation Mushtarak is a test of a new U.S.-led strategy for wresting control from Taliban and drug traffickers in the region as part of a blueprint for re-establishing Afghan government sovereignty.
It is also the first test of U.S. President Barack Obama's faith in McChrystal's counter-insurgency plans for Afghanistan, in which the military works closely with civilian authorities to neutralize insurgent influence.
"In many ways it is a model for the future: an Afghan-led operation supported by the coalition, deeply engaged with the people," McChrystal was quoted as saying.
Provided by Syndigate.info an Albawaba.com company
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia)|
|Date:||Feb 21, 2010|
|Previous Article:||Iran to build 2 new enrichment plants in March.|
|Next Article:||EU "concerned" over passports in Hamas killing.|