Moral Low Ground

War & Peace

Afghan President Karzai Warns NATO over Civilian Deaths, Threatens to Turn on “Occupiers”

Incensed over the deaths of at least 50 innocent civilians over the last few days, Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued his harshest warning to date to NATO. According to the New York Times, Karzai called on the alliance to immediately halt air strikes on civilian homes or face “unilateral action” from the Afghan government. He said this was a “last warning.”

“The Afghan people can no longer tolerate these attacks on their homes,” Karzai declared. “One day the Afghan government will be forced… to take a unilateral action in this regard.”

A strained relationship. (Photo: Andrew E. Lynch)

Karzai did not offer specific details of what action his government would take to ensure an end to such attacks, but he said his country “has a lot of ways of stopping” them.

The Afghan President also implicitly threatened NATO, saying the foreign troops were close to being seen as occupying invaders rather than partners in the fight against terrorism.

“If they continue their attacks on our homes, then their presence will change from a force that is fighting against terrorism to a force that is fighting against the people of Afghanistan,” he warned. “And in that case, history shows what Afghans do with trespassers and with occupiers.”

Karzai’s anger is understandable. There has been a dramatic upsurge in civilian deaths caused by NATO air strikes in recent days, with 40 innocent civilians and friendly police officers massacred last Wednesday and 14 more civilians, including 11 children under the age of seven and two women, slaughtered on Saturday night. The fact that these deaths were accidental is of no comfort to either the relatives of the victims or the Afghan leadership.

Air strikes and night raids have greatly strained relations between NATO and Afghanistan. Despite lip service– NATO spokesman US Navy Rear Admiral Vic Beck said “we are in agreement with President Karzai on the importance of constantly examining our actions”– civilians continue to be slaughtered by NATO carelessness and the penchant for insurgents to operate in and around civilians with even less regard for their safety than shown by foreign forces.

Karzai said he was warning “NATO, American forces and American officials for the last time on behalf of Afghanistan’s people.” He said he would soon meet with top NATO commanders to inform them what his government intends to do if the deadly air strikes are not stopped.

“If it turns out to be… the behavior of an occupation, then of course the Afghan people know how to deal with that,” he threatened.

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