Karzai Condemns Civilian Casualties from NATO Attacks, Heavy Fighting in Yemen
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a news conference that NATO has received its “final warning” and that air strikes on homes will not be allowed. His remarks came after the deaths of women in children in a recent strike in Helmand province.
Karzai has previously criticized night raids, which NATO says are necessary to combating Taliban insurgents. NATO said it conducts strikes in cooperation with the Afghan government but apologized for the strike on Sunday that hit two homes.
Despite the strain between Karzai and his NATO allies, the strikes are likely to continue as the United States prepares to reduce troops levels and hand over less volatile provinces to Afghan security forces.
Karzai did not mention specific steps the Afghan government could take to halt the strikes but said that they challenged Afghanistan’s sovereignty and could make NATO seem like an “occupying force.”
“If this is repeated, Afghanistan has a lot of ways of stopping it, but we don’t want to go there. We want NATO to stop the raids on its own, without a declaration … by the Afghan government, because we want to continue to cooperate,” Karzai said.
The latest civilian deaths also come at a time when public anger is growing. According to the BBC:
While insurgents are responsible for most civilian deaths in Afghanistan, correspondents say that the killing of Afghans by foreign soldiers is a source of deepening public anger. In the past, these have prompted angry protests across Afghanistan.
Meantime, President Obama’s staff is weighing the cost of the war effort – estimated at $113 billion this fiscal year, with an additional $107 billion requested for the next fiscal year.
The heavy financial burden – higher for personnel than Iraq because of logistical and infrastructure differences – comes at a time when the White House is under pressure to help reign in the national deficit.
Some commanders argue that drawing down at a critical juncture in the war would send the wrong message to insurgents and risk undoing the gains brought by the president’s 2009 troop surge.
Heavy Fighting in Yemen as Army, Major Tribe Clash in Capital
More fighting was seen Tuesday in Sanaa as army troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh clashed with supporters of Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, a powerful tribal leader who has turned away from Saleh to back protesters and whose home was directly attacked by soldiers.
Al-Ahmar’s supporters had seized several government buildings in last week’s fighting.
According to the Associated Press:
The fighting has dramatically raised the stakes in Yemen’s nearly four-month-old political crisis and further undermined the stability of a deeply impoverished nation home to the most dangerous branch of al-Qaida and awash in weapons.
President Saleh, who has been in power for more than three decades, has refused to cede power despite four months of protests. Saleh has been closely allied with the United States in anti-terrorism efforts but has elicited international criticism with his harsh crackdown on demonstrators.
In the southern city of Taiz, army tanks confronted protesters encamped in the city’s main square, resulting in an estimated 20 deaths, though unconfirmed reports put that number closer to 50. The U.S. embassy in Yemen called it an “unprovoked and unjustified attack.”
Serbian Court Rejects Mladic Appeal
A Serbian court denied Ratko Mladic’s appeal not to be extradited to face war crimes charges at The Hague, overruling his attorneys’ claim that his health was too poor for him to be tried. His defense team claims his health has grown worse in detention.
Mladic was arrested last week in Serbia after 16 years in hiding for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian war. The actual extradition could happen as early as Tuesday, pending authorization by Serbia’s justice minister.
Suspect Arrested in Connection with Russian Journalist’s Murder
Russian authorities say they have detained a suspect in Chechnya for the 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Politkovskaya, who had reported on government corruption within Moscow and Chechnya, was shot to death in front of her home in Moscow. Police say the suspect they have in custody, Rustam Makhmudov, was the main shooter. His arrest was welcomed by Novaya Gazeta, Politkovskaya’s employer. Two of Makhmudov have been accused of acting as accomplices.