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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 January 2007, 15:56 GMT
Nato laments Afghan civilian dead
Nato troops in Afghanistan
Nato says its troops will be more careful
Nato has said its biggest mistake in Afghanistan in 2006 was killing innocent civilians.

A spokesman for the Nato-led force, said efforts were under way to reduce civilian deaths in military operations.

But he said Nato had killed far fewer people last year than the Taleban, who launched more than 100 suicide attacks.

President Hamid Karzai cried last month as he spoke of his inability to stop militant attacks and coalition forces "killing our children".

I believe the single thing that we have done wrong... is killing innocent civilians
Richard Nugee
Nato spokesman

He has come under growing pressure over civilian deaths as violence has raged across the south and east. Bloodshed in Afghanistan last year returned to levels not seen since the fall of the Taleban in 2001.

The BBC's Dan Isaacs in Kabul says, according to Nato, there is to be a greater emphasis on the strategic targeting of the Taleban leadership.

He says the extent of the civilian deaths, often in air strikes on local communities believed to be harbouring Taleban fighters, has brought much criticism of Nato both from within and outside Afghanistan.

'Wrong'

Nato forces in Afghanistan are accused of killing civilians in a number of air strikes and gun battles during operations against the Taleban and their allies.

Hamid Karzai, May 2005
President Karzai has appealed to end civilian deaths

In one incident in Kandahar province in October, 20 members of one family were among villagers killed by Nato bombing, Afghan officials said.

Speaking in the capital, Kabul, Nato spokesman Brigadier Richard Nugee said the alliance was working to change its tactics in 2007 - and civilian casualties were the number one issue to be addressed.

"I believe the single thing that we have done wrong and we are striving extremely hard to improve on is killing innocent civilians," he said.

But he also said the Taleban's mistake was to take its fight to Nato forces.

"I would suggest it was a year of two halves. In the first half the Taleban believed their own rhetoric and believed that Nato responsible for security across the whole country would not fight.

"So they took us on in a place of their choosing, in a hard fight - and they lost."

In December, President Karzai made impassioned pleas for foreign forces to be more careful. He met Nato commanders in Kandahar and accused alliance troops of "shooting around".

The head of Nato troops in Afghanistan, Lt Gen David Richards acknowledged the concerns, saying procedures had to be reviewed.

Border row

The authorities say about 4,000 people died last year in attacks by the Taleban and their allies and in raids by Nato-led troops - about a quarter of them civilians.

Until winter set in suicide attacks, roadside bombings and coalition raids, particularly in the south and east, were an almost daily occurrence.

Relations between Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan have worsened as violence has risen.

Pakistan denies it is not doing enough to stop cross-border incursions by militants opposed to Mr Karzai's Western-backed government.

At the end of December, Mr Karzai sharply criticised Pakistani plans to build a fence and plant landmines along parts of the common border.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is due for talks in Kabul on Thursday.


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Nato spokesman on Afghan operations



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