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Vol. 76/No. 25      June 25, 2012

US airstrikes incite anger
in Afghanistan, Pakistan
In early June two U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan highlighted the marked escalation of such attacks and growing tensions in Washington’s relations with Islamabad and Kabul over the last few months.

On June 6 NATO air forces bombed a house full of civilians in the Logar province of Afghanistan. In addition to an undetermined number of Taliban fighters, 18 civilians were killed, among them four women, two elderly men, three teenage boys and nine young children.

The attack took place in a region where U.S. troops are conducting a major military offensive aimed at maintaining control around Kabul, the country’s capital, and pushing Islamist fighters back toward the Pakistani border. The move, reinforced by the transfer of some 5,000 troops from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, is planned to extend through what U.S. generals call “the current fighting season,” which stretches from now through October. Washington has announced that 23,000 U.S. troops will be drawn down by the end of September, leaving 68,000 in the country.

The scope of the slaughter made international news June 7 when local residents displayed to reporters bodies of women and children piled in vans.

“This is unacceptable. It cannot be tolerated,” said Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a statement demonstratively released during a four-hour stopover in Kabul by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to discuss the status of the 11-year war.

Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the U.S. commander of NATO-led forces, announced June 10 that airstrikes on Taliban in civilian homes would be restricted.

The limited character of these restrictions was indicated by an unnamed U.S. defense official quoted by the New York Times. “When there is concern over the presence of civilians, air-delivered munitions will not be employed while other means are available,” he said.

A CIA drone-fired missile struck a compound in the tribal area of North Waziristan in northern Pakistan June 4, killing Abu Yahya al-Libi, an al-Qaeda deputy leader, according to U.S. officials. Up to five people were killed in the attack, according to the Times.

The Pakistani government condemned the strike, one among eight in two weeks in that area of Pakistan.

There has been a sharp escalation of U.S. drone strikes in northern Pakistan since the end of April, coinciding with a marked deterioration in relations between the two governments.

The Pakistani government shut down Washington’s use of Pakistani land routes to bring supplies to Afghanistan after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by U.S. airstrikes near the Afghan border in November. Islamabad has demanded to no avail that Washington apologize for the killing.

At a NATO summit in Chicago last month, President Barack Obama refused to meet with his Pakistani counterpart for lack of an agreement on the supply roads.  
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