NATO not interested in restricting civilian deaths across Afghanistan: Phyllis Bennis
Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:21PM
The recent request or demand from President Karzai has to do only with Afghan military officials requesting or calling in airstrikes form the Americans or from NATO – that will not be allowed to happen. The US and NATO have made it clear that they believe they have still the right to carry out airstrikes on their own without relying on Afghan requests."An analyst says NATO in June 2012 promised Karzai it would partially halt airstrikes on Afghan homes, but broke that promise and civilian loss has continued. In the background of the war in Afghanistan, for many months President Karzai has been pressuring the US to restrict it’s airstrikes on civilian homes and this became pronounced when 18 civilians were killed in mid 2012. This week 10 civilians at one time were killed by NATO airstrikes in Kunar province, which again brought this issue to the fore and NATO has agreed to not permit Afghan troops from calling airstrikes. This seemingly leaves Afghan troops without US air support. The partial ban on airstrikes comes in desperation from the Afghan community reeling from excessive civilian losses from such attacks over many years by US-led forces and paid mercenaries occupying the country. Press TV has interviewed Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington about this issue. The following is an approximate transcription of the interview. Press TV: Taking a look at the situation in Afghanistan since 2001 these airstrikes have been a cause for opposition from the Afghan government as well as from the civilian population. What has changed now for the US to agree to take this step? Bennis: The US has not said that it is prepared to stop airstrikes. What the US has said is that they will respect President Karzai’s ban on Afghan military people requesting military airstrikes. They’ve been very clear unfortunately that the US can continue on its own to launch airstrikes.
The US and NATO claim that they have significantly reduced the number of civilians that are attacked because they claim that they are avoiding any attack on homes where civilians could be. In fact of course as we know from the most recent events in the last couple of days, that is NOT the case and they have continued to kill civilians although not necessarily in the numbers that we were seeing in 2010 and 2011.But the recent request or demand from President Karzai has to do only with Afghan military officials requesting or calling in airstrikes form the Americans or from NATO - that will not be allowed to happen. The US and NATO have made it clear that they believe they have still the right to carry out airstrikes on their own without relying on Afghan requests. Press TV: You’re saying as far as the Afghan civilian population is concerned nothing is really going to change on the ground for them? Bennis: Well I don’t know. I’m not on the ground so it’s difficult to say. It may be that the US and NATO will reduce the number of airstrikes, which would certainly reduce the number of civilian casualties, but they have not made a commitment to do that.
They have not made a commitment to ending all strikes. They made that commitment last year after the killing of 18 civilians in an earlier case, but the attacks have continued albeit in lesser numbers.It may be and it would certainly be a good thing if they reduced the number of airstrikes, but whether they are going to do what they should do, which is to stop them altogether, there is no indication of that so far. Press TV: Do you think this promise though no matter how far it goes is sort of an admission on the part of US and NATO officials that these airstrikes have indeed resulted in civilian casualties? Bennis: They’re not willing to admit that. Their claim is that... on their part they claim that very few civilians have been hit. They don’t deny that civilians have been hit so this is not a situation as we’ve seen in other arenas where there has been a complete denial that there has been any kind of civilians casualties as they claim for example with drone strikes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. We don’t have that kind of denial in these airstrikes in Afghanistan, but I think the key thing is that as long as US troops and NATO troops are fighting in Afghanistan using air power there is going to be civilian casualties. And until the war ends, until the US troops are all out, until the US air force is out, until the NATO troops are out and the hundred thousand NATO and US-paid mercenaries are out this war is going to continue and there will continue to be civilian casualties. SC/JR