Following an investigation by their Assistance Mission for Afghanistan, the United Nations has announced that it is convinced that a minimum of 90 civilians were killed in Friday’s US airstrike in Herat Province. This number, they reported, included 60 children, and stands as one of the largest incidents of US-inflicted civilian casualties since the 2001 invasion.
The attack has done grave harm for support of both international troops and the Karzai government among the Afghan populace. President Karzai has attempted to mitigate the harm to his administration by firing a top army general and annoucing that his cabinet was reviewing the presence of NATO forces and would demand a formal agreement stipulating their authority.
NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero however denied that they had been contacted by the Afghan government regarding any renegotiations, and said the presence was “on the basis of a United Nations mandate”. Moreover, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini ruled out any possibility of foreign forces withdrawing from Afghanistan, insisting that at most it would lead to a different way of managing the presence of the nearly 70,000 foreign forces presently in Afghanistan.
The United States spent most of the weekend denying that any civilians were killed in the attack, which they initially claimed killed 30 militants, though they later revised that number to 25 militants and 5 civilians. The White House expressed “regret” for the deaths of innocent Afghans, while blaming the Taliban for “placing civilians in harm’s way”. The Pentagon defended the attack, despite the civilians casualties, as a “legitimate” assault on the Taliban. Afghan Minister Nematullah Shahrani disputed this account, however, and challenged the US to provide any proof that Taliban were at the site of the attack.
compiled by Jason Ditz
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