The following is by Sayed Salahuddin in Reuters.
KABUL – Afghan lawmakers on Monday demanded legal restrictions on foreign forces fighting in their country, to prevent further civilian deaths, then closed for half a day to protest the latest casualties from U.S. air strikes.
The attacks on homes packed with civilians, during a protracted battle last week, have damaged ties with Washington and stoked popular anger about the presence of western troops, over rising non-combatant deaths.Debate about innocent casualties dominated the morning’s session and the delegates said they had given the government one week to come up with a way of regulating foreign fighters.
“To prevent the bombardment and killing of our people, the Wolesi Jirga (lower house) has decided the government must come up with a plan, within one week, to regulate the foreign forces,” said Wolesi Jirga secretary Abdul Sattar Khawaasi.
President Hamid Karzai has already called for an end to all air strikes. His request was rebuffed by the U.S. which said commanders could not fight “with one hand tied behind our back.”
But the lawmakers’ demands go beyond those raised by Karzai.
“This is no longer bearable…the activities of foreign forces, their presence must be legalized. When a foreign soldier acts contrary to the law of Afghanistan, he should be prosecuted according to Afghanistan’s law,” Khawaasi told Reuters.
Karzai said the civilian toll from the strikes could be as high as 130, but the head of the lower house of parliament, Mohammad Younus Qanuni put it even higher, at 140.
A deputy from Farah, Mohammad Nayeem Farahi said 95 of the victims were children under 18 years old.
If Karzai’s toll is confirmed, it would make the Farah strikes the single bloodiest incident for civilians since the Taliban’s ouster in 2001.
The U.S. military has conceded that civilians were killed in its attack aimed at the Taliban, but has not given any figure.