NATO retrains troops after Afghan civilian deaths

By RAHIM FAIEZ | November 29, 2011 | 5:35 AM EST

Internally displaced Afghan refugee girls and boys look out from a window of a home in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov, 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid )

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan president said Tuesday the top commander of U.S. and NATO troops has ordered a retraining for the coalition forces following recent deaths of Afghan civilians in military operations.

Hamid Karzai said he received a letter from U.S. Gen. John Allen saying NATO was aggressively investigating the deaths and had ordered all units to retrain their troops on the procedures for using force against insurgents while protecting Afghan civilians

On Nov. 23, six children and an adult were killed in a NATO airstrike in Zhari district of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. Allen said then that the incident occurred when coalition forces were responding to offensive actions by insurgents.

The statement from Karzai's office quotes the letter the president received from Allen.

"I have issued direct orders for all units to conduct retraining on our methods of employing force against insurgents while protecting Afghan civilians," the statement said, quoting Allen. "No later than Dec. 5, units will confirm to me that they have complied with these orders."

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman for the coalition, said Allen's letter to Karzai was meant to reaffirm his commitment to investigate the incidents and make sure that the right protective measures are in place to prevent Afghan civilians from being killed or wounded in the future.

Karzai has long complained about the number of civilians killed in the crossfire during military operations against militants.

A recent report by the United Nations said the number of Afghan civilians killed in war-related violence rose 15 percent in the first half of this year. The U.N. said 1,462 Afghan civilians lost their lives in the first six months of the year compared with 1,271 in the same period of 2010.

In an incident early Tuesday, Afghan and coalition troops captured an al-Qaida operative in Surkh Rod district of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, NATO said. The coalition said two individuals who displayed hostility toward the joint force were killed and a third suspected insurgent was detained.

Gulam Sakhi, a relative of the two killed, claimed they were not insurgents.

"They were ordinary laborers," he said. "We have no link with al-Qaida."

Separately, a tribal leader and former jihad commander was shot and killed by the Taliban militants in eastern Afghanistan, according to Wardak provincial governor's office.

Milam Aziziullah, who also was member of the Jaghatu district council, was killed as he was driving home Monday afternoon.

"Azizullah's death is a big loss for Wardak people," Wardak provincial governor Mohammad Halim Fedawi said. "He was a commander during jihad and fought against the Soviets and was at the service of the local people as a tribal leader."