Following a US bombing that killed at least ten children in Afghanistan earlier this month, President Hamid Karzai is pointing his finger at a shadowy program led by the US Central Intelligence Agency in the country.
The controversary centers around 'unofficial commando units'—composed of Afghan soldiers but controlled and coordinated by the CIA—which operate outside the control of the Afghan intelligence service but in areas where traditional US and NATO military forces cannot.
As The Guardian's Emma Graham-Harrison reports from Kabul on Friday:
Karzai's spokesman Aimal Faizi said the CIA controlled large commando-like units, some of whom operated under the nominal stamp of the Afghan government's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), but were not actually under its control.
"Some of them are said to be working with the NDS, but they are not armed by the NDS, not paid by the NDS, and not sent to operations by the NDS. Sometimes they only inform the NDS minutes before the operation," Faizi said. "They are conducting operations without informing local authorities and when something goes wrong it is called a joint operation."
One of these groups was involved in a battle with insurgents in a remote corner of eastern Kunar province in early April that left several Afghan children dead, Faizi said. Karzai has fired the provincial head of intelligence in connection with the incident.
The US citizen who died during the battle was advising the Afghan intelligence service, and the airstrike that killed the children is believed to have been called in after he was fatally injured.
The US embassy declined to comment on CIA issues, but sources with knowledge of the battle said he was an agent, and his name has not been released, usually an indication of intelligence work.
As the US and NATO plan to withdraw additional combat troops in the coming months, concerns remain about the military structures that will remain. In addition to human rights abuses by US-trained Afghan forces, the US reliance on aerial bombings leaves many to conclude that incidents that leave innocent civilians dead, which too often include children, will continue.