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Friday February 5th, 2016 10:12PM

Karzai: US failed to consult Afghans on airstrike

By The Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's president said Saturday that the United States failed to consult Afghan forces when calling in an airstrike that killed 18 civilians, and warned that in the future his government will consider such actions as violating the country's pact with Washington.

In the east, meanwhile, a Taliban suicide bomber disguised as a woman wearing a burqa killed four French soldiers when he blew himself up in a market.

Both Hamid Karzai's condemnation of the U.S. operation and the French deaths as that country rushes to pull out its combat forces were reminders that the international exit from Afghanistan is going to be far from orderly. As more agreements are signed promising Afghan sovereignty and more NATO troops are assigned the role of trainers or advisers, the international mission in the county is becoming increasingly muddled.

Presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said that President Hamid Karzai met with investigators earlier in the day and concluded that U.S. troops had called in Wednesday's strike without coordinating with Afghan units.

The incident occurred during a nighttime raid on militants taking cover in a village. These raids are a major irritant in Afghan President Hamid Karzai's relationship with the international military coalition. Karzai says the raids put civilians at risk of injury or death. Military officials say such operations are key to capturing and killing Taliban leaders.

The U.S. and Afghanistan signed an agreement in April that put the Afghan government in charge of most such "special operations" - a move designed to resolve some of the longstanding tensions.

But when villagers in Logar province displayed the bodies of 18 civilians killed in a U.S. airstrike on Wednesday, Karzai quickly called on the international coalition to explain itself. Faizi said that the investigators told the president that Afghan forces had surrounded the house in question but that the U.S. troops decided not to wait for them to try to flush out the militants and called in aircraft instead. They only discovered later that there had also been women, children and old men inside.

"This airstrike was a one-sided decision, and not coordinated with Afghan security forces," Faizi said. He said that Karzai and his advisers decided after hearing the investigators' report that they would consider such actions in the future as a breach of the special operations pact.

"The continuation of uncoordinated operations and civilian casualties are against the recent decisions made between Afghanistan and the United States," Faizi said. He said the Afghan government felt that the United States was betraying the promises it made in the night raids pact and a larger strategic partnership agreement signed afterwards.

"The expectation of the Afghan government and the Afghan people was that a new page would open between Afghanistan and the United States," Faizi said.

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan apologized for the civilian deaths on Friday and a NATO investigation ruled that the coalition forces were responsible for the unintended deaths of civilians. However, NATO officials have not said that they acted against the special operations agreement.

A spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan declined to comment on the Afghan findings. NATO forces "are going to wait until the final results from the investigation team come out until we make any comment on that," said Col. Gary Kolb. Both Kolb and U.S. Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall declined to comment on whether the pact on special operations had been violated in the Logar incident.

The attack on the French forces took place as they were responding to a report of a bomb planted under a bridge in the main market area of Kapisa province's Nijrab district, said Qais Qadri, a spokesman for the provincial government.

The bomber walked up to the soldiers and detonated his explosives, Qadri said. France's defense ministry confirmed the nationality of the dead and said another five French troops were wounded in blast. The ministry said they were on an operation supporting the Afghan army but did not provide details.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in an email.

Qadri said four Afghan civilians were also wounded.

The Kapisa bombing was the second deadly attack on NATO troops reported on Saturday. NATO forces said earlier in the day that a service member was killed in a bomb attack in the east. A spokesman for the international coalition, Maj. Martyn Crighton, said the attacks were not related and happened in different parts of the east.

The latest deaths bring to 13 the number of international troops killed in June. So far this year, 189 international service members have been killed in Afghanistan.

French President Francois Hollande said he has asked his defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and the chief of staff of the French army Edouard Guillaud to travel to Afghanistan Sunday in a show of support for France's troops there.

Speaking on French television from Tulle, France, Hollande said an aircraft has already left to fly to Afghanistan and repatriate the wounded as soon as possible.

The recently elected Hollande campaigned on a promise to pull all of France's combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year - well before the 2014 goal for the majority of NATO combat troops to have left the country.

Last month, Hollande announced that 2,000 combat troops would be withdrawn, but that he would leave around 1,400 soldiers behind to help with training and logistics.

France now has 3,400 troops and 150 gendarmes in Afghanistan. Under Hollande's plan, some would stay behind to help send military equipment back to France, and others would help train the Afghan army and police. He did not provide a breakdown for the roles of the 1,400 soldiers who will remain past 2012 or how long they would stay.

Hollande said Saturday that the drawdown of French troops in Afghanistan will begin in July and finish by the end of the year.

Kapisa province has been a particularly deadly posting for French troops. In January, an Afghan soldier shot and killed four French troops on a base in the province.
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