Karzai Says NATO Risks Becoming 'Occupying Force'

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday the U.S.-led NATO military in Afghanistan risks becoming an "occupying force" if aerial bombings which cause civilian casualties continue.

His outspoken remarks came days after he issued a "last warning" to foreign forces over civilian casualties following Saturday's killing of what he said was 14 civilians including women and children in an air strike.

"If after the Afghan government said the aerial bombing of Afghan houses is banned and if it continues, then their presence will change from a war against terrorism to an occupying force," he told a press conference in Kabul.

"And in that case, Afghan history is witness to how the Afghans deal with occupying forces."

NATO's U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the death toll from Saturday's strike was nine, and has apologized over the incident in the restive southern province of Helmand.

Karzai's comments made apparent reference to the historic defeats by Afghan fighters of foreign invasions, including that by the Soviet Union, which invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and withdrew 10 years later.

Karzai, who faces intense domestic pressure over the issue of civilian casualties, also said again that international bombing attacks against Afghan homes were "banned".

"Their (foreign forces') presence here in Afghanistan is for the war against terror. They are not an occupying force," he said.

"That's why the people of Afghanistan so far have endured casualties and have given sacrifices. So these operations should not be used against Afghan people and their houses. That's why bombing Afghan houses is banned."

Source: Agence France Presse

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