NATO launched an air strike on Saturday despite Afghan President Hamid Karzai having forbidden his troops to call in foreign air support.
After Afghan forces called in a strike that killed 10 civilians last month, mostly women and children, Afghan President Hamid Karzai forbade Afghan forces from calling for NATO air support and forbade international forces from using air strikes in Afghan homes or villages.
NATO initially said that the Saturday strike was in support of Afghan troops, which would be in contravention of the president's orders, but later said new information showed the helicopter had struck the insurgents separately. There were conflicting reports on the death toll from the air strike. A Reuters reporter saw the bodies of two children. One was in school uniform. Local elder Jan Mohammad and other residents said he was killed in the air strike. The reporter also saw the hand and foot of a toddler at the site of the air strike, but the circumstances of the death were not immediately clear.
Afghan police had been patrolling in Ghazni when they came under attack by insurgents, NATO spokesman Major Adam Wojack said. "International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) supported the Afghan unit in contact by engaging the insurgent forces with helicopter-delivered direct fire," he said, adding that ISAF was investigating reports of civilian casualties. Nine Taliban fighters were killed and eight civilians were wounded, according to senior Afghan police detective Colonel Mohammad Hussain.
Civilian casualties caused by air strikes are a significant source of friction between Karzai and his international allies as Washington and Kabul negotiate over the size of a future US military presence after most international troops depart by the end of 2014. On the same Saturday, U.S. military leaders formally handed over security responsibilities to Afghan troops in an area of Wardak province that was the focus of claims by President Hamid Karzai that U.S. troops were responsible for kidnappings and human rights abuses.
The transfer of a base in the Nerkh district of Wardak province from U.S. special operations forces to Afghan troops comes 10 days after Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, reached an agreement with Karzai to carry out the handover. Karzai initially wanted all American Special Forces personnel out of Wardak, but later agreed to limit the immediate handover to Nerkh.
However, a strong American role still exists at Afghan-controlled prison. Days after the Parwan detention center –– renamed the Afghan National Detention Facility –– was ceremoniously transferred to Afghan control, its courtroom was full of American bailiffs, American advisers and American attorneys. The facility itself is on one of the country’s most fortified American bases. When an Afghan defense attorney and prosecutor this week began arguing the case of Abdul Shakor, an alleged Taliban commander detained since 2009, all of the available evidence came from American forces.