The top US commander in Afghanistan apologized to President Hamid Karzai for a drone strike that killed a child and NATO promised an investigation today as rising tensions threatened efforts to persuade the Afghan leader to sign a long-delayed security agreement. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford called Karzai late yesterday to express "deep regrets for the incident and any civilian casualties," the commander's spokesman said. Karzai condemned the attack, which also wounded two women earlier yesterday, and said all airstrikes and foreign raids on Afghan homes must stop if the United States expects him to sign the pact that would allow thousands of Americans to stay in the country beyond a 2014 withdrawal deadline.
"This attack shows that American forces do not respect the safety of the Afghan people in their homes," Karzai said in a Dari-language statement on his website. The coalition, known as the International Security Assistance Force, said the airstrike had killed an insurgent on a motorbike in Helmand and also promised to investigate Karzai's claims that it also killed a child and injured two women. In the phone call, Dunford talked to Karzai directly and "expressed deep regrets for the incident and any civilian casualties assured Karzai that an investigation would be conducted into Thursday's airstrike, which the Afghan president said was carried out by a drone in southern Helmand province," Dunford's spokesman says. (Read more Hamid Karzai stories.)