Use of air power in Afghanistan unlikely to change: NATO
KABUL: NATO’s force in Afghanistan said Wednesday it did not plan to change its use of air power against the Taliban, despite criticism about the number of civilian deaths.
“We are looking closely at our air operations, but it would not be something we would be looking to change at this point,” International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Maria Carl told reporters. This was “mostly from the standpoint that air offers us the opportunity to cover a lot more (of) that ground that we can’t do with a limited number of troops at that moment,” she said.
President Hamid Karzai on Saturday accused the NATO-led ISAF force and separate US-led coalition of killing about 90 civilians this month, most of them in air operations. Civilian casualties were not acceptable, he said. Carl said civilian deaths almost always occurred because insurgents attacked from “a heavy residential area or from a building in which they have held civilians as shields.”
This meant civilians were caught up in the return fire. The use of air power was always in support of ground operations, where soldiers needed to defend themselves, Carl said. “We have to act in self-defence. The commander on the ground tries to make sure that there are no civilians in that area,” she said. “When there are civilian casualties, it is not always clear that those casualties were the result strictly of air operations, because usually there was a lot of gun engagement as well,” she added.
ISAF and more especially the coalition have in the past month carried out several air raids against Taliban fighters, mostly in the south of Afghanistan where the insurgency is its strongest. afp