Karzai meets Petraeus after bloody Afghan demos

AFP , Wednesday 25 May 2011

Afghani President Karzai meets US commander to discuss civilian casualties that have triggered violent demos

President Hamid Karzai met the US commander of foreign troops in Afghanistan General David Petraeus Wednesday over a NATO-led operation which triggered violent protests in which 17 people died.

The protests happened earlier this month in Taloqan, capital of the usually peaceful northern province of Takhar, after an international operation targeting insurgents left four people dead, including two women.

Local people took to the streets to insist they were civilians in violent demonstrations in which 17 people were killed and 79 others injured amid clashes with security forces.

Karzai's office said in a statement before the meeting with Petraeus that he wanted to discuss "unilateral operations that have tired the people of Afghanistan."

The president has consistently demanded an end to anti-insurgent operations conducted solely by foreign forces, saying they should always work with their Afghan counterparts.

Petraeus's spokesman later confirmed that the meeting had taken place but could not disclose details of what they discussed.

The meeting came after a delegation which Karzai had charged to probe what had happened reported back, the statement said.

"The delegation concluded that the unilateral operation by the coalition forces, the deaths of a woman and a young girl and the existence of armed individuals amongst the demonstrators were the main causes of the violence in the demonstrations," it added.

Civilian casualties in military operations are a highly sensitive issue in Afghanistan and Karzai has repeatedly called on foreign forces to do more to prevent them.

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