A growing civilian death toll will hang over today’s efforts by the presidents of the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan to forge a new alliance against the Taliban.
The Red Cross has confirmed that dozens of women and children were killed by US air strikes in Afghanistan’s Farah province yesterday. Earlier, local reports suggested more than 100 civilians might have been killed. Red Cross spokesperson Jessica Barry said: “When our team arrived in the villages yesterday afternoon they saw dozens of bodies in two areas where the fighting and bombing had taken place. In two villages they saw graves and they saw people being buried and they understand from the community first aid workers from the Afghan Red Crescent who were on the spot, they had treated dozens of casualties who had already been evacuated.” Meanwhile, in Pakistan’s Swat valley, fears are growing of a refugee crisis. A peace deal that gave the Taliban control of Swat appears on the verge of collapse. The Pakistani government had allowed the Taliban to impose strict Sharia law in the region as part of the ceasefire. The United States deeply opposed the deal, claiming that Pakistan had “abdicated” to the Taliban. However militants expanded out of Swat, pressing on towards Islamabad and coming to within 100 kilometres of the capital. That provoked a reaction from the Pakistani military. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flee as the fighting resumes.