The newly appointed commander of US-led troops in Afghanistan says he does not plan to halt controversial air strikes which have killed many civilians in the war-torn country.
Gen Stanley McChrystal emphasized the air strikes were necessary to protect troops taking part in ground operations across Afghanistan.
“It’s very hard because it’s a balance for the young soldier on the ground, who is in combat. One of the assets that he has that might save his life might be air power or indirect fire from artillery or mortars and we don’t want to take away that protection for him,” the BBC quoted McChrystal as saying.
Civilians have been the main victims of violence in Afghanistan particularly in the troubled southern and eastern provinces where the main fighting is going on.
The spiraling civilian casualties inflicted by US-led forces in Afghanistan have sparked outrage among Afghans and constitute a moot point between Kabul and Washington.
The top US commander added that he plans to reduce Afghan civilians’ death but not on expense of troops’ lives.
He said both “preventing and investigating” civilian causalities would be Washington’s priority in the conflict-torn country.
The remarks comes a day after a UN report suggested that air strikes by the US-led forces and insurgent bombings were responsible for a higher number of civilian causalities in the war-torn country.
UN assistance mission in Afghanistan warned on Friday that the number of Afghan civilians killed either in US-led airstrikes or Taliban attacks had risen beyond the 1000 mark in the first half of 2009.
The development comes as a Saturday air-strike in southern Afghanistan reportedly killed five civilians and wounded ten. Reports said missiles were fired at a residential area in a small town in Helmand province.
The UN has warned that an increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan could mean a greater loss of life in the war-torn country.