KABUL - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that the United States failed to consult Afghan forces when calling in an airstrike last week that killed 18 civilians, and he warned that in the future his government will consider such actions as violating the country’s pact with Washington.
Presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said that Karzai met with investigators earlier in the day about Wednesday’s nighttime raid on militants taking cover in a village in Logar Province.
In the east, a Taliban suicide bomber disguised as a woman wearing a burqa killed four French soldiers Saturday when he blew himself up in a market.
The attack on the French forces took place as they were responding to a report of a bomb planted under a bridge in the main market area of Kapisa province’s Nijrab district, said Qais Qadri, a spokesman for the provincial government. Four civilians were wounded.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in an e-mail.
Both Karzai’s condemnation of the US operation and the French deaths as that country rushes to pull out its forces were reminders that the international exit from Afghanistan is going to be far from orderly.
As more agreements are signed promising Afghan sovereignty and more NATO troops are assigned the role of trainers or advisers, the international mission in the country is becoming increasingly muddled.
The nighttime NATO raids are a major irritant in Karzai’s relationship with the international military coalition. He says the raids put civilians at risk of injury or death. Military officials say the operations are key to capturing and killing Taliban leaders.
The United States and Afghanistan signed an agreement in April that put the Afghan government in charge of most such “special operations’’ - a move designed to resolve some of the longstanding tensions.
Faizi said Afghan investigators told the president that Afghan forces had surrounded the house in question but that the US troops decided not to wait for them to try to flush out the militants and called in aircraft instead. They discovered only later that there had also been women, children, and elderly men inside.
“This airstrike was a one-sided decision, and not coordinated with Afghan security forces,’’ Faizi said. He said that Karzai and his advisers decided after hearing the investigators’ report that they would consider such actions in the future as a breach of the special operations pact.
“The continuation of uncoordinated operations and civilian casualties are against the recent decisions made between Afghanistan and the United States,’’ Faizi said. He said the Afghan government felt that the United States was not holding to the promises it made in the night raids pact and a larger strategic partnership agreement signed afterward.
According to a separate statement issued by the president’s office, Karzai met with the top US military commander in the country and the US ambassador and told them that there had been multiple times since the signing of the long-term partnership last month that international airstrikes had killed or hurt civilians.
“Afghanistan signed a longterm strategic partnership with the United States with this condition and with this hope: that the villages and houses of the people would be safe,’’ the statement said. It went on to say that US General John Allen promised Karzai that there would no longer be any airstrikes against Afghan homes or in Afghan villages. NATO spokesmen did not immediately respond to calls to confirm the statement.
The US commander in Afghanistan apologized for the civilian deaths on Friday, and a NATO investigation ruled that the coalition forces were responsible for the unintended deaths of civilians. However, NATO officials have not said that they acted against the special operations agreement.
A spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan declined to comment on the Afghan findings, but said that the country’s forces had approved the larger Logar strike.
“The operation as a whole was approved by the Afghans. This was an Afghan/coalition operation,’’ Colonel Gary Kolb said. Both Kolb and US Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall declined to comment on whether the special operations pact had been violated in the Logar strike.