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president hamid karzai
President Hamid Karzai has announced that Afghan security forces are to be banned from calling for foreign air strikes in residential areas.
Hamid Karzai said he would issue a decree on Sunday, less than a week after 10 civilians were killed in a night raid in the eastern province of Kunar.
NATO-led forces in Afghanistan are not expected to make a formal response until the full decree has been issued.
Civilian casualties are a source of tension between Afghan and NATO forces.
“I will issue a decree [on Sunday] that no Afghan security forces, in any circumstances can ask for the foreigners’ planes for carrying out operations on our homes and villages,” Hamid Karzai said in a speech at the Afghan National Military Academy in Kabul.
“Our forces ask for air support from foreigners and children get killed in an air strike,” he added.
NATO troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and have gradually been handing over responsibility for security to their Afghan counterparts.
Hamid Karzai said Afghans were “happy” about the withdrawal.
“We are happy for all their help and assistance so far, but we do not need foreign forces to defend our country. We want our Afghan forces to defend their homeland,” he said.
Afghan forces now lead 90% of all security operations.
Yet the Afghan air force has limited strength, so NATO air support is considered crucial, especially for operations in harsh terrain and mountainous areas.
President Hamid Karzai has announced that Afghan security forces are to be banned from calling for foreign air strikes in residential areas
Most of the 10 civilians killed in the February 13th air strike on Kunar were women and children.
Four Taliban fighters also died in the attack, in the Shegal district of Kunar, which borders Pakistan. The Afghan army said the dead men had links to al-Qaeda.
Hamid Karzai said he had been told the air strike was requested by Afghan forces.
“If this is true, it is very regrettable and it is very shameful. How could they ask foreigners to send planes and bomb our own houses?” he said.
“I agree we are passing through a challenging phase, but we are the owners of this country… and fortunately, we will show to the world that we can protect our country,” said President Hamid Karzai.
The deaths in Kunar came just after US President Barack Obama confirmed plans for the withdrawal of about half the 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan by early 2014.
Last year a US drone attack in the same area killed Mullah Dadullah, a high-ranking Pakistani Taliban commander.
Civilian casualties rose sharply in every year from 2008 to 2011, though they fell in the first half of 2012, according to figures from the UN mission in Afghanistan.
The figures cover deaths caused both by NATO forces, allied with government troops, and by insurgents.
A UN report earlier this month accused the US of killing hundreds of children in air strikes over the past four years.
The number of child casualties had doubled in 2010-2011 due to a “lack of precautionary measures and use of indiscriminate force”, the study found.
The NATO-led ISAF force called the claims “categorically unfounded” and “false”.
Afghanistan has blocked the entry of all newspapers from Pakistan, saying they serve Taliban militants.
In its order, the interior ministry said the newspapers “are a propaganda resource of the Taliban spokesmen” and has ordered police forces in east Afghanistan to confiscate all copies.
The latest move comes amid increasing tension between the two countries.
Afghanistan has blocked the entry of all newspapers from Pakistan, saying they serve Taliban militants
Afghanistan has urged Pakistan to immediately stop shelling in the border province of Kunar.
The Afghan interior ministry order focuses specifically on blocking entry of the papers at Torkham, a busy border crossing.
It authorizes police to impound Pakistani newspapers in the three eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan.
Referring to the reasons for the move, the ministry said news in the Pakistani newspapers “is not based in reality and it is creating concerns for our countrymen in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan”.
Correspondents say that cross-border violence has become a highly sensitive issue in Afghanistan, where many are wary of Pakistan’s historic ties to the Taliban.
At a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul said the attacks had killed dozens of civilians.
The UN says around 4,000 people have been displaced due to cross-border shelling.
Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, agreed to send a joint military delegation to examine the shelling across their border.
Islamabad says that the violence is being carried out by Pakistani Taliban fighters sheltering in Afghanistan, who have infiltrated the border to resume attacks on its security forces.
Pakistan says it is only targeting militants who flee from their territory and try to seek a safe haven in Afghanistan.
A NATO air strike in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Laghman has killed at least eight women, local officials say.
NATO has conceded that between five and eight civilians died as it targeted insurgents, and offered condolences.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai “strongly condemned” the deaths and has sent officials to the area to investigate.
Earlier on Sunday, four US soldiers with the NATO forces were killed in an attack by suspected Afghan police.
The attack in southern Zabul province brought to 51 the number of NATO troops killed in “insider attacks” this year, and came a day after two UK soldiers were killed at a checkpoint in Helmand by a man in police uniform.
Local officials in the remote area of Laghman said at least eight women had died, while provincial council member Gulzar Sangarwal said nine were dead.
Major Adam Wojack, a spokesman for the ISAF international forces, said between five and eight civilians could have been killed, and said an investigation was under way.
He said a group of some 45 insurgents had been targeted by an ISAF unit, and many had been killed.
A NATO air strike in Afghanistan's eastern province of Laghman has killed at least eight women
“Unfortunately, we have become aware of possible ISAF-caused civilian casualties as a result of this strike, numbering five-eight Afghans,” he said.
“ISAF offers its sincerest condolences to the affected community and family members, as well as to the Afghan people, concerning this tragic loss of life.”
At least seven women were also reported to have been injured. Provincial health director Latif Qayumi said some of them injured were girls aged as young as 10.
The Laghman governor’s office said a number of civilians had gone to the mountains to collect wood and nuts from a forest in the Noarlam Saib valley, a common practice in the area.
The mountainous, highly forested terrain remote from government control make the area attractive to Taliban and other insurgent groups, correspondents say.
The issue of civilian deaths by international forces has created tensions between the US President Karzai.
In August, UN figures suggested the number of civilians killed and injured in the first half of 2012 had fallen 15% on the same period of 2011.
Analysts said increased sensitivity on both sides about the impact of civilian deaths had led to more carefully targeted attacks.
In his statement, President Hamid Karzai expressed his “sorrow” over the incident, saying he “strongly condemns the airstrike by NATO forces which resulted in the deaths of eight women”.
ISAF spokesman Lt. Col. Hagen Messers said the remote base in Zabul province came under attack in the early hours of the morning, AFP reports.
The US troops were scrambled to help the Afghans repel the attack, but four of them were shot dead by Afghans in police uniform.
Officials said it was not yet clear whether the attacker or attackers were genuine police, but one provincial office told AFP that three or four known policemen had since disappeared from the base.
“At the moment, we don’t know where they have gone. We don’t know if they fled fearing arrest or if they are linked to the Taliban,” he said.
Zabul’s deputy police chief Ghulam Gilani told the Associated Press the police could have been forced into attacking the American troops.
“Whether they attacked the Americans willingly we don’t know,” he said.
Meanwhile, more details have also emerged of the scale of damage caused by an insurgent attack on NATO’s heavily fortified Camp Bastion base in Helmand province, in which two US marines were killed.
Militants breached the perimeter of the sprawling base in Helmand province, destroying six US Harrier aircraft and damaging two more, destroying three refueling stations and damaging six aircraft hangars.
NATO said 14 of the insurgents were killed and one was injured and taken into custody. Nine coalition personnel were wounded.
In a statement, NATO said the attack had been carried out by 15 insurgents dressed in US Army uniforms who “appeared to be well-equipped, trained and rehearsed”.
The US military has decided to hand control of controversial Bagram prison housing more than 3,000 Taliban fighters and terrorism suspects to the Afghan authorities.
In a small ceremony, Afghan officials said inmates had been transferred to their authority.
The move is part of a deal to transfer all Afghan prisons back to local control ahead of the withdrawal of NATO forces at the end of 2014.
Bagram prison has been at the centre of a number of prisoner abuse allegations.
Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai has hailed the planned handover, disagreements with the US remain.
Washington is insisting that it will maintain control over some detainees in the prison.
Bagram prison in Afghanistan has been at the centre of a number of prisoner abuse allegations
The handover took place in a brief ceremony which correspondents say was poorly attended by US and NATO officers.
“I’m happy that today we are witnessing a glorious ceremony that marks the handing over of responsibilities of Afghan prisoners to Afghans themselves,” said acting Defence Minister Enayatullah Nazari, quoted by AFP news agency.
Now officially known as the Parwan Detention Centre, Bagram prison lies about 40 km (25 miles) north of the capital, Kabul.
It was once located in one of the largest military bases for NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, but the new Parwan facility was constructed a few miles away in 2010.
More than 3,000 inmates are held there, including about 50 foreigners not covered by the handover agreement signed in March.
The US military still wants to run a section of the jail and is not handing over some detainees, saying it has the right to hold insurgents caught on the battlefield.
Privately, the US is concerned that some high-value inmates could be released if they are handed over, our correspondent says.
That has angered President Hamid Karzai, who says that full Afghan control is an issue of sovereignty.
Bagram has been described as “Afghanistan’s Guantanamo” for its troubled past of prisoner abuse and indefinite detention.
In April 2010, a media investigation uncovered allegations of prisoner abuse at a hidden facility at Bagram.
The US military denied it was operating a secret jail.
In January 2012, Afghan investigators accused the US Army of abusing detainees at Bagram.
The investigators said prisoners had reported being tortured, held without evidence and subjected to humiliating body searches.
The following month, US soldiers burned Korans at Bagram, leading to days of protests and targeted killings across Afghanistan.
A US investigation said there was no malicious intent to disrespect Islam.
NATO leaders are meeting in Chicago in a summit dominated by the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
They want to forge a common stance as they prepare to hand over security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
Some members have pledged aid to help Afghan forces tackle the Taliban insurgency on their own.
President Barack Obama warned of “hard days ahead”, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his country was fully aware of the responsibilities.
Barack Obama urged leaders to “pool resources”, and vowed to stand united to complete the Afghan withdrawal.
A number of NATO leaders have arrived from Washington, where they attended G8 talks that focused on the euro crisis.
The G8 group of leading industrial nations promised to promote growth alongside fiscal responsibility and insisted on the need for Greece to stay in the eurozone.
US President Barack Obama said there was an “emerging consensus” that European countries must now focus on jobs and growth.
The statements represented a shift away from Germany’s pro-austerity stance.
More than 50 leaders are attending the NATO meeting in Chicago.
Among them are heads of state and government from the 28 NATO countries, as well as Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari.
NATO leaders are meeting in Chicago in a summit dominated by the withdrawal from Afghanistan
As talks began President Obama spoke of a “transformational decade” in Afghanistan and the enormous sacrifices of the American people on the road to peace, stability and development.
The summit comes as several NATO leaders are under domestic pressure to withdraw troops from Afghanistan before 2014.
The new French President, Francois Hollande, has promised to pull out the country’s forces by the end of this year.
However, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said such moves were part of the plan.
“We are now in a process of gradually handing over lead responsibility for security to the Afghans and that process will be completed by the end of 2014 and during that process you will see withdrawal of troops, a shift from combat to support,” he said.
“It’s not a contradiction of our strategy, it’s a part of our strategy,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen added.
Some nations – including the US, Australia, Britain, and Germany – have made pledged to an international fund set to help Afghan forces after the NATO pullout.
The US is expected to pay half of an estimated $4 billion needed every year.
More than 10 years after the US toppled the Taliban regime, violence is continuing unabated in Afghanistan. According to UN figures, the number of deaths reached a record 3,031 in 2011 – the great majority caused by militants.
Earlier this month the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive. On Saturday a suicide bomber killed at least 10 people, a number of them children, at a checkpoint in the eastern province of Khost.
The Obama administration is hoping that President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan will agree to reopen key NATO supply routes into Afghanistan, which were closed in November after US air strikes killed Pakistani troops.
Pakistan’s co-operation is regarded as key to the success of the international mission in Afghanistan, as 130,000 US-led troops fight a Taliban insurgency.
Also on the agenda at the NATO summit are plans for a US-led missile defense system for Europe, aimed at countering a possible threat from Iran.
The leaders are expected to announce the first phase of the scheme, with the deployment of US warships armed with interceptors in the Mediterranean and a radar system based in Turkey.
Russia has voiced strong opposition to the plan, saying it undermines the value of its nuclear deterrent.
The summit is taking place amid heavy security in Chicago.
Leaders from the Occupy movement have said they will join forces with anti-war demonstrators which have held protests ahead of the NATO meeting.