August 16, 2010
United States troops shot three civilians including a 12-year-old boy at a demonstration near its main base at Bagram airfield at the weekend - the latest in a rising wave of protests against the occupation.
Nato claimed the soldiers had been forced to shoot at locals after they surrounded contractors building a massive Afghan army base on their land.
Around 250 civilians gathered around the building workers and their heavily armed escort to demand that the project be halted, said government official Abdullah Adil.
Reports of the latest violence against civilians came as US commander in the country General David Petraeus launched a prime-time TV bid to shore up plummeting public support for the occupation.
July was the deadliest month for US forces so far, with 66 soldiers killed, while the UN warned last week that civilian casualties are increasing at their fastest rate yet.
Washington's former commander in Iraq trawled up the spectre of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden to justify a long-term Nato presence in Afghanistan - and raised the prospect of increasing bloodshed in coming months.
"There is understandable concern and in some cases frustration," Gen Petraeus said.
"Therefore we have got to really put our shoulders to the wheel and show during the course of this year that progress can be achieved."
US troops in Afghanistan are currently at an all-time high of 100,000, although US President Barack Obama pledged last November that numbers would reduce from July 2011.
But Gen Petraeus hinted that he could oppose plans to cut US forces.
He said he could "certainly" see a scenario where he would ask Obama to delay withdrawal because of conditions on the ground.
Gen Petraeus's comments appeared to put him on collision course with Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who said in a weekend interview: "There is no question in anybody's mind that we are going to begin drawing down troops in July of 2011."
Meanwhile, the Afghan mines ministry has reported that up to 1.8 billion barrels of oil could lie beneath the ground in the country's north - a potential haul worth around £87bn at current prices.
Spokesman Jawad Omar said that Afghan and international geologists had found the possible oil field between Balkh and Jawzjan provinces, around 250 miles north-west of Kabul.
US geologists have previously estimated that Afghanistan, one of the world's most impoverished countries, could be sitting on around $1 trillion (£640bn) in mineral wealth.