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Karzai again blames U.S. for fatalities

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 6:03 p.m.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai went against the wishes of a council of 2,500 tribal elders in refusing to sign a long-term security pact with the United States.

KABUL — Relations between the U.S. military and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are being tested once again as Karzai accuses American troops of killing eight civilians, including seven children, during a military operation in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday.

According to Karzai and the governor of Parwan province, the incident occurred about 1 a.m. when U.S. Special Forces attempted to enter a home. A gun battle ensued, resulting in a coalition airstrike that killed the children as well as a female relative in the home, they said.

In a statement, the U.S.-led coalition confirmed that an incident had taken place during a joint operation by Afghan and coalition forces in an area known for Taliban activity, some linked to the Haqqani network. Officials said the troops were fired upon “from two compounds” as they hunted militants wanted for recent attacks on Bagram airbase, north of Kabul.

The firefight became so intense that coalition troops requested airstrikes, coalition officials said. At least 10 insurgents were killed, coalition officials said, acknowleging that they had reports of two civilian deaths.

The coalition “regrets that civilians were killed” during the operation, the statement said.

A coalition soldier also was killed, officials said.

Although U.S. officials stressed that Afghan soldiers were in the lead during the operation, the incident further hinders efforts to resolve the impasse over the signing of a long-term security agreement between the two countries.

Karzai lashed out at President Obama, accusing him of not following through on pledges to limit U.S. military operations in civilian areas in Afghanistan.

The bulk of U.S. and NATO troops are slated to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year, but the Obama administration hopes to keep a residual force in the country for counterterrorism missions and to help train the fledgling Afghan military.

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