WASHINGTON - The senior allied commander in Afghanistan has ordered new restrictions on airstrikes against Taliban fighters who hide in residential homes, coalition officials said Sunday, a move in response to a NATO attack in the eastern part of the country last week that Afghan officials say killed 18 civilians.
“Given our commitment to protect Afghan civilians, restricting the use of air-delivered munitions against insurgents within civilian dwellings is a prudent and logical step in the progression in the campaign,’’ said Jamie Graybeal, a NATO spokesman in Afghanistan.
Officials said a directive from General John R. Allen, the commander for international and US forces in Afghanistan, underscores NATO’s existing commitment to protect civilians.
It also marks a triumph for President Hamid Karzai, who has repeatedly stressed that civilian casualties undermine ties between countries.
Karzai has frequently pushed for a less confrontational approach in dealing with the Taliban.
After a meeting Saturday of Karzai, Allen, and US Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to discuss the issue, aides to Karzai said in a statement that Allen vowed to halt attacks altogether on residential areas and homes.
On Sunday, however, US officials said Allen’s order did not necessarily go that far, saying that NATO would continue to conduct operations against insurgents who use civilian dwellings for shelter.