NATO commanders insist that their mission in Afghanistan is one of reconstruction, but that combat is an inevitable byproduct. Now, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is under pressure from its Afghan hosts to reduce mounting civilian deaths, even as member nations such as Canada face renewed pressure to withdraw completely.
Italy’s ADNKronos says a NATO bombing run gone awry killed nine Pakistani civilians on the Afghan border, including three women and four children — prompting the suicide of the 70-year-old patriarch of the family.
The Associated Press reports that U.S. commanders don’t feel any procedural changes in military operations are required, however, asserting that current measures help “minimize” the civilian toll.
A Pentagon spokesman also vehemently denied that NATO troops are killing more civilians than the Islamist militants they are fighting.
According to Sky News, Afghan civilians aren’t the only ones in need of protection.
British troops fighting for NATO in the “lawless” Helmand province are hobbled by a remarkable lack of equipment.
Despite promises of proper outfitting and maintenance by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, only half of all the U.K.’s Apache helicopters deployed in Afghanistan are airworthy, and only 16 of 96 promised armored vehicles have been delivered.
But the U.K. Defense Ministry denied a shortage of helicopters and combat vehicles for British troops, saying that as part of a coalition, they “share assets.”
Sky News reports that includes “scrounging” vehicles from a small Estonian contingent deployed with British forces.
Canada, meanwhile, considered canceling a parade by troops bound for Afghanistan, amid protests and reports that 70 percent of Canadians now oppose participating in the NATO coalition.
“U.S. dismisses reports on Afghan deaths”
Associated Press, June 26, 2007
“Pakistan: man who lost nine family members in NATO strike, kills himself”
ADNKronos International, June 25, 2007
“‘Give us a little protection'”
Sky News (U.K.), June 16, 2007
“Protesters rally as soldiers march in Quebec City”
CBC (Canada), June 22, 2007