Barack Obama has vowed to do all he can to avoid casualties in Afghanistan, after Hillary Clinton said she \’deeply regretted\’ recent civilian deaths there.
“I made it clear that the United States will work with our Afghan and international partners to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties,” Obama said.
Afghan police say 100 people – most of them civilians – died in a series of US-led air strikes on the remote western province of Farah on Monday.
The presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan renewed their commitment to fighting extremism during talks with Obama and Clinton in Washington on Wednesday.
The US military has opened an investigation into the operation overnight on Monday which left scores of Afghans, including women and children, dead.
Airstrikes were launched after Afghan authorities asked for help in a clash with Taliban militants who had beheaded three civilians.
Afghan, US investigations under way
“During the aerial bombardment and ground operations, more than 100 people have died,” western Afghanistan police spokesman Abdul Rauf Ahmadi said.
“Twenty-five to 30 of them are Taliban, including from Chechnya and Pakistan, and the rest are civilians including children, women and elderly people,” he said.
Deputy Farah provincial governor Mohammad Younus Rasouli said he had seen the bodies of 20 children brought by villagers to the provincial capital, also called Farah.
Insurgents who attacked the security forces are reported to have taken shelter in civilian homes, accounting for at least some of the civilian casualties.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered his government to investigate the reports of high civilian casualties.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US “deeply regretted” the loss of civilian life.
Source of Afghan-US tensions
“We don\’t know all of the circumstances or causes. And there will be a joint investigation by your government and ours,” she told Karzai.
The killing of ordinary Afghans in the fight against extremists is one of the main sources of tension between Karzai and the United States, on which fragile Afghanistan depends for security and aid.
Troubles peaked in August last year when Afghan and UN investigation teams found that more than 90 civilians, including 50 to 60 children, had been killed in US-led coalition air strikes in western Afghanistan.
The US military, which initially said five to seven civilians and 30 to 35 Taliban were killed, reopened an investigation after an outcry, finding 33 civilians and 22 militants died.
There are roughly 70,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, more than half of them from the US, which has pledged an extra 21,000 to tackle the extremist threat.
Last year was the deadliest for civilians caught up in the conflict, according to UN figures that say nearly 2,200 were killed, about 55 per cent in insurgent attacks and nearly 40 per cent by pro-government force action.