KABUL  - A Nato air strike killed 10 civilians, mostly women and children, Afghan officials said Wednesday, as Kabul welcomed President Barack Obama’s pledge to withdraw more US troops.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai “strongly condemns the Nato airstrike in Shigal district which killed 10 civilians”, the presidential palace said in a statement.

“Condemning the raid, he once again reaffirmed his long-standing stance that terrorism does not exist in Afghan homes and villages, and the fight there will not yield any successful result,” the statement said.

Nato forces said they were investigating the claims of civilian deaths and took “every allegation of civilian casualties very seriously”.

If the deaths are confirmed it will be another blow to the prestige of US-led forces as they prepare to withdraw combat troops from the war against Taliban insurgents by the end of next year.

The civilians were killed by a Nato air strike during an overnight raid on a Taliban hideout in a remote eastern region, local officials said.

“Five children, four women and a man were killed in the raid,” Kunar provincial governor Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi told AFP.

Three Taliban commanders, including a notorious Qaeda-linked militant leader called Shahpoor, were also killed in the raid, said district governor Abdul Zahir.

Zahir said the civilians were killed in the air raid in support of a ground operation by US-led coalition and Afghan forces in a Taliban-controlled valley in the insurgency-plagued region.

It was not clear if the owner of the targeted house was a member of the Taliban or a civilian, but the Taliban were visiting when the home was attacked, he added. The Taliban often force villagers to provide them with food and shelter. Four other children were wounded in the raid, Wahidi said.

Civilian casualties caused by Nato forces are a highly sensitive issue and are regularly condemned by Karzai.

His government on Wednesday welcomed Obama’s announcement that the United States will withdraw 34,000 troops over the next year.

“We welcome this,” defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP. “We will take all security responsibilities by the end of 2013.”

Karzai has long supported the scheduled withdrawal of US and Nato combat troops by the end of 2014, saying Afghan forces are capable of taking responsibility for the fight against Taliban insurgents. But many analysts have voiced scepticism over the ability of the mostly poorly-trained and equipped Afghan military to counter a force that has resisted Nato troops for more than 11 years.

Obama, who made the troop withdrawal announcement during his State of the Union address, said the draw down would continue and “by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over”. The Taliban dismissed the troop pullout as insufficient. “As long as the invading forces remain in Afghanistan, the jihad continues, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.