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Afghanistan war: NATO under fire over civilian casualties, Karzai criticism

After months of denial, NATO admitted Sunday to five civilian casualties in a February raid – a major setback in the Afghanistan war effort to 'win hearts and minds.'

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks to locals during a shura, in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, Sunday. Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledged Sunday that a NATO drive into Taliban territory in Kandahar province would only begin after thorough consultations with local tribal leaders, in a bid to beef up support in the volatile south.

Golnar Motevalli/AP

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NATO forces in Afghanistan are facing new pressure on the “hearts and minds” front after they admitted Sunday to killing five civilians in a February assault and as Afghan President Hamid Karzai appeared to publicly undermine Western efforts here.

Currently on a visit with top US commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal to Kandahar, where NATO is planning a major summer offensive against the Taliban, Mr. Karzai promised local leaders on Sunday that “there won’t be an operation unless you are happy about it.”

On Monday, he canceled a planned trip to a frontline NATO base nearby – a move that would hurt morale among local government workers and residents, US officials said.

IN PICTURES: Behind the veil

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