A coalition source told the New York Times on Friday that the American and NATO commander in Afghanistan made a late-night phone call to Afghan premier Hamid Karzai to apologize for a series of raids and drone strikes that Karzai has railed publicly against this past week.
An anonymous coalition source told the Times that Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. called President Karzai and “expressed deep regrets for the incident [a drone strike this Thursday] and any civilian casualties, and promised to convene an immediate joint investigation to determine all the facts of what happened.” In addition to the personal phone call, NATO has announced it is currently investigating the drone strike and is “committed to ensuring that all measures are taken to prevent civilian casualties.”
Karzai has been adamant in objecting to civilian casualties caused by drone strikes in Afghanistan, and this week threatened to cancel the security agreement with the United States and its coalition if the strikes do not stop. Such a cancelation would require the withdrawal of international troops and likely lead to the nation descending further into Taliban-fueled violence.
The two strikes Thursday incensing Karzai and the Afghan government so strongly resulted in at least one child’s death and two wounded women. The target, allegedly a man on a motorcycle, escaped. The second strike killed a Taliban insurgent and by all reports was a successful operation.
Karzai argued that the first strike proved “the United States has no regard for the lives, houses, and sovereignty of the Afghan people,” and refused to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement that has been a point of contention this week. The BSA would allow about 8,000 troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014 and would provide more than $8 billion in annual funds to aid Afghanistan in rebuilding its own military and infrastructure. Without it, the United States cannot guarantee its presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
In discussions with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Karzai hinted at the idea of not deciding on the BSA at all–as he is term-limited, he could leave the decision to his successor. He could sign it should his conditions be met, among them an end to attacks that may harm civilians.
While it is highly uncommon, it is not the first time a U.S. soldier apologized for an unfortunate incident in Afghanistan. Last August, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales apologized for an incident killing 16 civilians in 2012.