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Karzai orders an end to Afghan troops calling in coalition air strikes

KABUL: The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, has said he will issue a decree forbidding his military forces from asking coalition forces to conduct air strikes and condemned the use of torture by his security forces.

In a speech at the new Afghan National Military Academy in Kabul, Mr Karzai also urged US-led forces to withdraw quickly.

''We are the owners of this soil; Americans aren't,'' Mr Karzai said. ''Fortunately, they are leaving soon.

''To defend our soil, we don't need foreign troops,'' he said to applause from the audience. ''My soil will be defended by these young officers.''

His proposed ban on Afghan troops' calling in air strikes came after a joint Afghan-NATO attack last week in Kunar province, in eastern Afghanistan, that local officials said killed 10 civilians - four women, one man and five children.

Mr Karzai said the commander of coalition forces, US General Joseph Dunford, told him the air strike had been requested by the the Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security.


The attack took place in the Shigal district of the province, where two known Taliban commanders were visiting family members, Afghan officials said.

''Our NDS in its own country calls foreigners to assist them and bombard four or five al-Qaeda or Taliban,'' Mr Karzai said.

''You represent Afghan pride. How do you call for an air strike from foreigners on your people?''

In an unusual move, Mr Karzai also acknowledged torture was a problem in Afghan detention centres and pledged to halt it.

In the past, the government had largely deflected charges of torture raised by human rights organisations, contending that any abuse was the work of a few rogue officers.

But after a United Nations report released in January detailed abuses or torture at detention sites around the country, Mr Karzai appointed a delegation to investigate the report's validity.

When it confirmed many aspects of the report, he ordered the security ministries to implement the team's recommendations.

They included prosecuting perpetrators of torture, giving detainees access to defence lawyers, providing medical treatment for detainees and videotaping all interrogations.

''Not only have foreigners tormented and punished Afghans, but our people have been terrorised and punished by our own sons too,'' Mr Karzai said. ''The UN report showed that even after 10 years, our people are tortured and mistreated in prisons.''

The New York Times, Deutsche Presse-Agentur