KABUL (AFP) - An airstrike in northern Afghanistan that killed up to 90 people on Friday hit at the heart of plans for a tactical change in the Western military strategy against Taliban-linked insurgents. The issue of civilian casualties in the Nato-backed war to rout Taliban from Afghanistan is a thorn in the relationship between the Kabul government and its Western backers - and a simmering source of anger among Afghan people. The Taliban in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere have become adept at manipulating battleground situations to draw fire and escalate civilian deaths to exploit local sensitivities about the presence of foreign troops. They do it to fuel public dissatisfaction against the presence and military operations of foreign forces and it justifies their cause, Afghan lawmaker Ahmad Behzad told AFP. It (the Kunduz strike) couldnt have come at a worse time for the Western powers trying to justify their presence in this country, said a foreign consultant in Kabul. On the other hand, the timing is perfect for showing what international troops are up against, he said on condition of anonymity. By ignoring the Taliban role in inflicting civilian casualties in their direct operations, or by hiding among people to cause civilian casualties from foreign forces operations, the government has helped the Taliban in their propaganda against foreign forces and their presence, Behzad said. Nevertheless, airstrikes have been singled out by commanders as a major cause of public dissatisfaction with the foreign military presence. The (Afghan) government has helped the Taliban by ignoring civilian casualties caused by Taliban operations and the major role Taliban plays in civilian casualties caused by foreign forces, Behzad said. The government has to address these issues, talk about it in the media and make the point clearly that it is the Talibans presence in Afghanistan that causes civilian casualties.