Civilian casualties drive president’s concerns
KABUL, Afghanistan – President Hamid Karzai pressed America’s top military leader Monday on the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and preparations to pour up to 30,000 more forces into the country, reflecting Karzai’s concerns over civilian casualties and operations in villages.
Karzai asked Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, what kinds of operations the newly deployed troops would carry out and told him that the Afghan government should be consulted about those missions.
The Afghan president, stinging from a series of civilian casualties in U.S. military operations in recent years, said he doubts that sending more American forces into Afghan villages will tamp down the insurgency, and he has questioned a U.S. plan to deploy 3,500 U.S. forces in two provinces on Kabul’s doorstep next month.
Karzai told Mullen that U.S. troops must take more care during operations in Afghan villages and stop searching Afghan homes. He asked the chairman to investigate allegations that U.S. forces killed three civilians in a raid last week in Khost province, a reflection of increasing concern about civilian casualties. The U.S. says three militants were killed.
Karzai wants more forces deployed along the Afghan border to combat insurgents infiltrating from Pakistan, where suspected U.S. missile strikes Monday killed eight people in a region where al-Qaida and Taliban leaders are believed hiding.
The identities of those killed in the two attacks – the latest in a stepped-up American campaign in the lawless region – were not immediately known.
During the weekend, Mullen said the U.S. would send an additional 20,000 to 30,000 troops to Afghanistan by summer – the largest number ever given by a top military leader – in an increase in force that reflects the deteriorating security situation around the country more than seven years after the U.S. invasion.
The deployment would raise the number of American forces in Afghanistan to the 50,000 to 60,000 range. Another 30,000 troops from 40 other countries currently operate in Afghanistan, although the bulk of the fighting forces are from the U.S., Britain, Canada, France and the Netherlands.
Violence in Afghanistan has risen sharply the last two years. More than 6,100 people, mostly militants, have died in insurgency related violence this year, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials.