NATO airstrike kills 10 civilians in Afghanistan
Target who were also killed were three Taliban commanders
By Masoud Popalzai and Ben Brumfield CNN
February 13, 2013KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan late Tuesday killed 10 civilians, including children, an Afghan government official said.The strike succeeded in killing three Taliban commanders who were targets of the attack, said Wasifullah Wasifi, spokesman for the governor of Kunar province. But it also claimed civilian lives, he said.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said it was looking into the allegations.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been at loggerheads with Washington over civilian casualties for years, saying such collateral damage shows a lack of respect for his country's sovereignty.
The number of civilian casualties dropped in 2012 compared to the previous year, according to the United Nations. Improvised explosive devices accounted for 33% of civilian deaths that year, according to a report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service.
The United States will draw down 34,000 troops currently stationed in Afghanistan in a year's time, President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. The current number stands at 66,000.
The Afghan defense ministry welcomed the announcement Wednesday, mirroring Karzai's stance on national sovereignty.
"Afghan National Army is completely ready to take over the above mentioned number of troops, and also they are completely ready to take the complete responsibility of security in the country in 2013," defense spokesman Zahir Azimi said.
Critics have expressed doubts about the Afghan military's readiness to maintain control over the Taliban.
The Taliban also welcomed the U.S. president's announcement, but lambasted the West for its involvement in Afghanistan and called for the complete withdrawal of all NATO troops.
By the end of 2014 -- the planned official end of the combat mission -- the White House is considering a range of troop levels for Afghanistan, from as many as 15,000 down to zero.