Afghan lawmakers call for cease-fire, talks with Taliban

Published May 10, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan - Lawmakers angered by mounting civilian deaths have sent a sharp warning to U.S. and NATO commanders, passing a motion for a military cease-fire and negotiations with the Taliban.

The resolution, which NATO labeled "a warning shot" across its own bow, came as reports emerged Wednesday of 21 villagers killed in airstrikes - a toll that a Taliban spokesman said the militia would avenge.

The proposal from the upper house of Parliament, which also calls for a date to be set for the withdrawal of foreign troops, suggests that Afghan support for the 5 1/2-year international military mission is crumbling amid a series of civilian deaths.

The motion reflects lawmakers' belief that negotiations with militants would be more effective than fighting, said Aminuddin Muzafari, the secretary of the upper house. President Hamid Karzai has said he is open to talks with Taliban.

The resolution passed Tuesday, hours before U.S. forces battling insurgents in Helmand province called in a series of airstrikes.

The U.S.-led coalition said it destroyed "three enemy command and control compounds" near Sangin. The coalition said a "significant" number of militants died in the 16-hour battle. One coalition soldier also died.

However, Helmand Gov. Assadullah Wafa said militants had sought shelter in Afghan homes and that the airstrikes had killed at least 21 civilians.

According to an Associated Press tally, 238 civilians have been killed by violence this year, including at least 102 blamed on NATO or the U.S.-led coalition.