Afghan president vows to regulate foreign troops
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, setting out his election manifesto, vowed on Friday to make foreign troops sign a framework governing how they operate in a bid to limit civilians casualties, Reuters reported.
Karzai, widely criticised for withdrawing from a televised debate with two of his main rivals in the Aug. 20 presidential election the previous night, unveiled a manifesto covering foreign troops, talks with insurgents and reconstruction.
Civilian casualties caused by U.S. and NATO operations, particularly air strikes, became a source of increasing outrage among ordinary Afghans and their leaders this year, even as insurgent violence hit its worst levels in the eight-year-old war.
"We need to make an agreement to put the movements of foreign troops into a legitimate Afghan framework," Karzai told a campaign gathering in Kabul.
"NATO and America are our allies in the war against terrorism but we also want protection, honour, dignity and respect of our religion from our friends," he said.
General Stanley McChrystal, the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, issued a new tactical directive this month stressing the importance of avoiding civilian casualties and limiting air strikes against residential compounds.
U.S. commanders have acknowledged they took too long to move to cut civilian casualties. The protection of ordinary Afghans is now the centrepiece of a new counter-insurgency strategy.
McChrystal's directive was issued as thousands of U.S. Marines and British troops were engaged in major offensives in southern Helmand, Afghanistan's most violent province and long a Taliban stronghold.
The assaults are the first under U.S. President Barack Obama's new regional strategy to defeat the Taliban and its Islamist allies and stabilise Afghanistan.
Washington is pouring thousands of extra troops into Afghanistan this year, in part to beef up security for the election. There are about 58,000 U.S. troops and 39,000 from other NATO members in Afghanistan, with U.S. numbers to rise a further 10,000 by year's end.