KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai said a deadly raid on a village by American and Afghan commandos has put new strain on relations with the United States and promised Thursday to punish those responsible.
U.S. officials have said that at least 30 militants, including a Taliban commander, and no more than seven civilians were killed during the Aug. 22 raid. Afghan officials, backed by the United Nations mission, insist that more than 90 civilians died, including dozens of children.
The dispute over the Azizabad raid has soured relations between Karzai and his foreign supporters — the United States and other nations with troops fighting against the Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan.
Karzai's comment comes a day after he spoke to President Bush about the raid, his office said. After the raid "our relation with the foreigners got worse," according to the statement.
The United States says Taliban militants pressure Afghan villagers to falsely claim civilian casualties, information warfare that does serious damage to the reputations of the U.S., NATO and the Western-backed Afghan government.
In Azizabad and other small villages where civilians are reported killed in combat, the Afghan government and international militaries pay about $2,000 for each person killed, giving villagers incentive to file false claims. But the Afghan claims in Azizabad are backed by the United Nations' own preliminary investigation, which said about 60 children were among 90 people killed.
Afghan and some Western officials say there is video and photo evidence to prove their assertion. None of that material has been made public yet.