LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is on paternity leave. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan battled a large group of insurgents who were attempting to cross the border with Pakistan today. At least 60 insurgents were killed. Afghan President Hamid Karzai reacted by accusing NATO and U.S.-led forces of carelessness in recent military operations. Mr. Karzai said 90 civilians have been killed in the past 10 days.
Joining us from Kabul is Griff Witte of the Washington Post. Welcome to the program.
Mr. GRIFF WITTE (Staff Writer, Washington Post): Linda, it's good to be here.
WERTHEIMER: Could you bring us up-to-date on these battles?
Mr. WITTE: Sure. Essentially we've been seeing some very, very heavy fighting over the last week or so. We had expected for some time that we would be heading into a period of much more intense conflict.
Traditionally in Afghanistan, there's a winter lull where the weather makes it very difficult to fight. But then in the spring, we start to see (unintelligible) activity pick up. This year the activity didn't pick up quite as much in March, April, and May but we're really now seeing, for the last few weeks or so we've been seeing some very, very heavy fighting where quite a number of insurgents have been killed and unfortunately, quite a number of civilians have been killed as well.
WERTHEIMER: The insurgents are coming across the border from Pakistan?
Mr. WITTE: Right. That is the long-held belief of many - well, pretty much everyone in the government of Hamid Karzai has said this insurgency is really fueled through Pakistan but the insurgents come across that border, wait, carry out attacks in Afghanistan and then cross back into Pakistan when they want a safe haven again.
It's a very strong belief of the Afghan government that this is an insurgency that's funded on the Pakistani side of the border.
WERTHEIMER: NATO and the U.S. say that the civilian deaths that Karzai is upset about are the result of insurgents hiding among the civilian populations. What about Karzai's accusation that the forces are just being careless?
Mr. WITTE: Well, this is much stronger language than we've seen from Karzai in the past but its essential message is the same, which is that he has been angry with the U.S. and with NATO for quite some time now, feeling that they are being not careful enough in terms of trying to protect non-combatants, that they have very much fire-first, ask-questions-later attitude and that they are not taking the proper precautions to make sure that there aren't civilians in the area when they fire on Taliban positions.
The NATO forces, they basically explained their actions, they're saying that the Taliban are deliberately hiding amongst civilians and that it's no coincidence that civilians are dying because that's the Taliban's goal.
WERTHEIMER: Karzai said today that these operations would have no benefit for Afghanistan are relations with foreign forces and the West in general in trouble here in Afghanistan?
Mr. WITTE: Well, I think that Karzai is coming under a lot of pressure domestically because his government is becoming increasingly unpopular as these folks start to believe that his government cannot protect them. And I think that...
Mr. WITTE: And I think that what you're seeing from Karzai is a bid to increase his own domestic standing by dissociating himself from the attacks - some of these attacks carried out by NATO and the U.S.
WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much. Griff Witte is from the Washington Post. He spoke to us from Kabul. Thank you.
Mr. WITTE: Linda, thank you very much.
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