NATO commander supports Karzai in limiting airstrikes
By Sayed Jawad - Sun Feb 17 2013, 7:51 pm
The newly appointed NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander Gen. Joseph Dunford on Sunday said he supports President Hamid Karzai’s intent to ban Afghan forces from calling in foreign air support, a move that will leave already under-equipped Afghan troops even more vulnerable.
While speaking during a meeting with journalists Gen. Joseph Dunford said, “This is a sovereign nation . The president is exercising his sovereignty.”
This comes as president Hamid Karzai during his visit to national military academy in Kabul ordered Afghan security forces to prevent calling for NATO air support during military operations.
His decree to be issued Sunday, came in the wake of an airstrike Tuesday in eastern Afghanistan that local officials said killed 10 civilians as well as four militants.
Losing NATO air support could be a crippling blow to the Afghan military, whose air force is little more than a collection of Soviet helicopters and small propeller planes.
Afghans themselves have virtually no close air support capabilities and it was not immediately clear if Karzai had an alternative plan for protecting Afghan soldiers in the field.
The death of civilians during military operations, particularly in airstrikes, has been among the most divisive issues of the 11-year-old war. The U.S.-led coalition has implemented measures to mitigate them, but the Afghan military also relies heavily on air support to gain an upper hand in the fight against Taliban militants and other insurgents.
In the meantime Dunford said, “I assured the president that I shared his perspective on civilian casualties and we have made extraordinary progress in reducing civilian casualties.”
However Gen. Dunford said that he and Karzai still must “work through the details” of the decree.