By Ray Fleming,

FIVE girls, seven boys and two women were killed in a Nato airstrike in Afghanistan which apparently hit two civilian homes instead of the Taliban insurgents at whom it was aimed. Sounding like a strict head teacher, President Karsai issued a “last warning” to the Americans and Nato to stop such “uncoordinated attacks”. An American general made a carefully worded apology to the families concerned and said that compensation would be offered “according to local custom”.

Goodness knows how many “last warnings” of this kind have been announced by President Karsai. On this occasion he also said that Afghanistan army forces should be consulted before an airstrike is used. The origin of this unfortunate event was the killing of a US marine by the Taliban who were operating from inside a civilian compound -- an only too familiar tactic of using innocent civilians as a shield. There are so many restrictions placed on Nato forces to avoid this kind of incident that it is a wonder they manage to undertake any effective action. After nearly ten years the war in Afghanistan started to “smoke out” Osama bin Laden is losing its short-term impetus and longer-term objective. The proximity of Pakistan with all its problems makes the task ever more difficult. Is it the time for re-think and a clear re-statmenet of Nato's objectives with President Karsai's endorsement?