Kim Sengupta: Air power is essential to defeat Taliban, but so is local support

Share
Related Topics

The decision by the US to send a senior officer to Afghanistan in connection with the investigation into the air attack reflects the seriousness with which the American authorities are being forced to treat this latest killing of civilians. The lethal "collateral damage" caused by air strikes has been the source of deep anger among Afghans and has led to demands from President Hamid Karzai for Western forces to change their tactics to prevent civilian casualties.

But sheer lack of US and Nato manpower on the ground means warplanes play a central role in operations and in bailing their forces out in emergencies. Air power, increasingly unmanned drones, are also vital in carrying out attacks on the Taliban across the Pakistan border. But some countries in the coalition have been taking steps to cut down on civilian casualties. The Danish battlegroup, which operates alongside British forces in Helmand, brought in Leopard tanks because, it was felt, ground fire would be more accurate than air attacks and reduce "accidents".

The Canadians, too, have deployed German-made Leopards which has made them less reliant on calling in warplanes. The American military is said to have been opposed to the introduction of the tanks because it believed it would lead to an escalation of the conflict with the Taliban and their allies replicating the Iraq scenario by escalating the use of explosive devices to counter the tanks.

In the end, practical necessity may lead to the Western military taking a more cautious approach to air strikes. Security in Afghanistan is steadily deteriorating and the US and Nato can ill afford to fuel the discontent as women and children are killed "by mistake". The government of President Karzai is also in a precarious position and, with elections looming, the killings are undermining his authority. Mr Karzai has called for a review of air attacks by Nato and an updated "status of forces" agreement between his government and Western military. The latest deaths, say Afghan officials, may force a deadline for these to be concluded.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Patrick Cockburn: Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
The Port Eliot Festival  

How to keep it real and escape from the screen this summer

Simon Kelner
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on