NATO acknowledges Afghan civilian deaths, to retrain troops

KABUL Tue Nov 29, 2011 5:23am EST

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KABUL (Reuters) - The commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan has written to President Hamid Karzai to acknowledge recent civilian deaths during coalition operations and to promise troops will be retrained, Karzai's office said on Tuesday.

In an emailed statement, it reported General John Allen as expressing his "personal sadness" for recent deaths, and saying International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops would be retrained in the next week in avoiding civilian casualties.

Civilian casualties are a major source of friction between Karzai's government and its Western backers. Rules governing air strikes and "night raids" have been tightened several times in recent years, but they sometimes still go wrong.

NATO forces angered Islamabad and tested an already uneasy alliance when an attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at the weekend. NATO described it as a "tragic, unintended incident."

The President's office quoted Allen as saying in the letter: "I have issued direct orders for all units to conduct retraining on our methods of employing force against insurgents while protecting Afghan civilians."

"No later than 5 December, units will confirm to me that they have complied with these orders."

Allen's letter said investigations were under way into recent incidents involving civilian deaths, the president's office added.

Karzai ordered an investigation last week into an air attack by NATO forces in southern Afghanistan that killed six children and an adult.

An ISAF spokesman acknowledged the letter from Allen to Karzai, which it said reaffirmed a commitment to investigate recent incidents and prevent further civilian casualties.

(Reporting by Jan Harvey; Editing by Paul Tait)

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