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US: Air Strikes on Civilian Afghan Homes Will Be on Last Resort Basis

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- NATO on Monday clarified an earlier report that said Afghan President Hamid Karzai had received assurances that the coalition would no longer conduct air strikes on areas populated by civilians.

Karzai met with Gen. John Allen, the commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker after a NATO airstrike that accidentally killed 18 civilians last week in the Baraki Barak district.  The loss of civilian lives in the pursuit of the enemy has long been a bone of contention between the Afghan government and the international coalition.

In response to Karzai's announcement,  Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said that while the rules of engagement had not changed, "air-delivered bombs will not be employed while other means are available" in residential areas where the Taliban may be hiding out.

Scaparrotti made it clear that the U.S. and NATO "still have the right of self-defense against hostile acts or intent."  He added that air strikes can be ordered when the lives of troops are in imminent danger and no other recourse is available.

This apparently is alright with Karzai, who declared Sunday, "Attacks by NATO that cause life and property losses to civilians under no circumstances could be justified and are not acceptable."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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