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Afghan president Karzai: US to cease air strikes on residential areas | guardian.co.uk

The US has vowed not to launch future air strikes in residential areas in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has said, following the death of 18 civilians in a raid last week.

Speaking after a meeting with US ambassador Ryan Crocker and Nato commander General John Allen, Karzai said he had been given a “commitment” that American forces would cease bombing such targets.

It follows widespread anger in Afghanistan over a raid on Wednesday that killed women, children and elderly people in a home that US forces believed was harbouring a Taliban militant.

The Afghan government has hit out angrily at Nato over the raid, saying that it it violated a pact Kabul had with Washington over who would take the lead in “special operations”.

An inquiry into Wednesday’s attack in Lognar province found that it was the result of “a one-sided decision, and not co-ordinated with Afghan security forces”, President Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faiz said on Saturday.

Investigators told Karzai that Afghan forces had surrounded the house prior to the American air strike. But US troops decided not to wait for them to try and flush out the alleged militant, opting instead for aerial bombardment.

It was only later that they discovered that civilians were inside the house.

Nato initially said it had come under fire first, leading to the call for an air strike. But the deaths of civilians has angered many within Afghanistan and strained already fragile relations between Washington and Kabul

“If the bombings on Afghan homes continue, they will be regarded as a violation and an act of aggression,” Faizi said following the strike.

On Friday, Allen, the senior American commander in Afghanistan, apologised over the incident. He did so again on Saturday after being summoned – along with Crocker – to a meeting with Karzai.

“The Nato commander once again officially apologised about the civilian casualties in Baraki Barak district of Logar,” according to a subsequent statement from the Afghan president’s office.

It added that Allen also agreed that the raid violated an agreement with Kabul in both “text and spirit”.