KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's president yesterday ordered NATO to stop bombing Afghan homes, citing the risk of civilian casualties and putting him on a collision course with his Western protectors who insist that the attacks are an essential weapon and will continue.
It was Hamid Karzai's strongest-ever statement against alliance air strikes and further complicated a difficult relationship with the Obama administration as it prepares a troop drawdown in the increasingly unpopular war.
Karzai's remarks were prompted by a recent air attack that mistakenly killed a group of children and women in southern Helmand Province. Karzai declared it would be the last.
"From this moment, air strikes on the houses of people are not allowed," Karzai told reporters in Kabul.
Ordering air strikes is a command decision in Afghanistan, where NATO spokeswoman Maj. Sunset Belinsky insisted they would continue.
"Coalition forces constantly strive to reduce the chance of civilian casualties and damage to structures," Belinsky said. "But when the insurgents use civilians as a shield and put our forces in a position where their only option is to use air strikes, then they will take that option."