Let Afghan media, civil society operate freely: Khalilzad


KABUL: The US Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has stressed Afghan media should be allowed to report current events happening across the country.

Khalilzad made the remarks following a misguided airstrike by government forces on a mosque in northern Takhar province caused civilian casualties.

Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) confirmed 12 children were killed and around 18 were injured last Wednesday in an air raid by Afghan government forces that was aimed at targeting Taliban insurgents.

“This is a terrible tragedy. Unfortunately, tragedy is not limited to Takhar. Civilians are victims of car bombs, IEDs, and targeted killings perpetrated by the Taliban. Civilians have been forced to flee fighting in Lashkar Gah and other areas,” Khalilzad tweeted on Saturday.

Offering condolences to all the families of those killed and injured, he said “It is vital that Afghanistan’s independent media and robust civil society be allowed to document current events.”

This comes as Amrullah Saleh had earlier ordered the arrest of at least one person accused of speaking about the Wednesday strike in Takhar. He tweeted that “the person responsible for the spread of this venomous & fake news was arrested immediately.”

Saleh “is trying to silence those who reported a potentially unlawful airstrike that killed civilians, including many children,” said Human Rights Watch Associate Asia Director Patricia Gossman. She demanded an impartial investigation into the airstrike.

Meanwhile, Khalilzad once again called on the warring sides to observe a ceasefire: “The answer to this tragic situation is an immediate reduction of violence leading to a ceasefire by all sides. The answer is to accelerate a political settlement.”

“The United States is singularly focused on this goal and is pressing both parties to reduce violence and find a path to peace as soon as possible,” he concluded.