U.S., NATO-led Forces Should Review Afghan Detentions, UN Says
By Michael Heath
Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. and NATO-led troops should review policies on detentions and house searches in Afghanistan and coordinate with local forces when targeting insurgents, a United Nations envoy said.
“People are detained and often are held for a long period of time on the basis of mistaken identity or mistakes with regard to whether these people are insurgents,” Kai Eide said at a news conference in Kabul.
Some of the UN’s closest contacts have been held by international troops, prompting frustration among Afghans, he said. House searches should also be led by Afghans who clearly understand cultural sensitivities in the nation, Eide said. adding that such knowledge is “critically important.”
Insurgents have stepped up attacks against Afghan troops and the 70,000 international soldiers deployed in the country. The Taliban movement has a “permanent presence” in almost three-quarters of Afghanistan and is closing in on Kabul, according to the International Council on Security and Development, a Paris-based research organization.
The council, which has full-time offices in Afghanistan, said earlier this month Taliban fighters have advanced out of their bases in the south and east and are infiltrating the capital.
President-elect Barack Obama has made bolstering the Afghan mission a priority and said two additional combat brigades would be necessary. Eide said more international troops are needed to ensure next year’s elections are held in a secure environment.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is seeking re-election in a vote that will test U.S. and NATO-led forces trying to stabilize the country. Karzai has repeatedly criticized international troops for civilian deaths as they battle Taliban insurgents trying to topple his government.
In the first eight months of this year, 1,445 civilians were killed in Afghanistan, either by international and Afghan forces or militants, an increase of 39 percent from the same period last year when 1,040 died, according to the UN.
International forces have made improvements in operations including the use of air strikes, avoiding populated areas that may lead to civilian casualties, Eide said, according to a statement on the UN Web site yesterday.
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