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

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

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
Amos Yee arrives with his father at the State courts in Singapore on March 31  

Singapore's arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

Noah Sin
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media