KABUL (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday condemned US troops for killing a four-year-old boy in the southern province of Helmand, in an incident set to add fresh strain to troubled relations between Washington and Kabul.
Helmand governor Naeem Baloch told Karzai during a meeting in Kabul about the shooting, which comes as the US and Afghanistan wrangle over a deal to allow some US troops to remain in the country after this year.
The US-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan issued a statement expressing "deepest sympathies to the family who suffered the loss of a loved one" in the incident on Wednesday and vowing to investigate "what happened and why".
Relations between Washington and Kabul have been poor for years, and negotiations over the bilateral security agreement (BSA) have erupted into a long-running public dispute.
Karzai made a surprise decision not to sign the agreement promptly despite having vowed to do so, leading to the threat of a complete withdrawal of NATO troops by the end of 2014.
"We condemn the killing of this boy in the strongest terms," presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told AFP.
"We have been calling for the complete end of military operations in residential areas. This demand has not been taken seriously by foreign troops and the result is civilian casualties including women and children." Faizi said a ban on military operations in civilian areas was one of the Afghan conditions of signing the BSA.
"The ball is the US court," he said. "We are waiting for practical steps to be taken to end to these operations and for the launch of a peace process. We believe the US can deliver on these demands."