Afghanistan's Taleban has been defeated and the remnants of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network are on the run. It is therefore time for the United States to stop its bombing raids, which are now killing innocent civilians instead of terrorists. Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai is right to ask Washington to stop its air war. Washington's objectives have mostly been met and although bin Laden has not been captured, his fighting force no longer poses a threat in Afghanistan. The war against terrorism also has brought a chance for Afghanistan to aim for democracy. With the Taleban and its fundamentalist Islamic ideals gone, women have regained their rights and dignity. The estimated eight million refugees beyond Afghanistan's borders and the millions of internally displaced can eventually look forward to returning to their homes and way of life. But these gains must not be tainted by Washington's insistence that its job is not done until bin Laden has been captured. In the present circumstances, neither can be guaranteed and it is time for acknowledgment of this fact. Reports of the deaths of 40 civilians in the village of Naka in eastern Paktia province during a bombing raid are evidence that the war should be scaled back and brought to an end soon. The incident bore shades of the killing last week of about 65 Afghans travelling in a convoy in the same province. Reuters news agency said they were tribal elders making their way to Mr Karzai's inauguration. But the US has said that, in both cases, the victims were members of the Taleban and al-Qaeda. There have been numerous other incidents during the conflict in which B-52s have dropped bombs on civilians and their property after missing intended targets. This is a regrettable fact of modern warfare and cannot be avoided. But the latest account, if found to be true, could well have been. Afghans have been through enough suffering after 23 years of occupation, civil war, drought, harsh winters and food shortages. Now they have a new government and it is that authority to which the US should now answer. It says the bombing campaign should end, possibly within days, and Washington must take notice of its wishes. By accepting that its war against bin Laden should move elsewhere and Afghans be allowed to get on with their lives in peace, the US can leave Afghanistan with dignity and a reputation for standing by democratic ideals.