Topic: War on Terror
May 9, 2007
"An Army commander apologized and paid compensation on Tuesday to families of Afghan civilians killed by marines after a suicide attack in March, in the first formal acknowledgement by American authorities that the killings were unjustified." "I stand before you today, deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry that Americans have killed and wounded Afghan people, "
Col. John Nicholson, an Army brigade commander in Eastern Afghanistan, told the families of the 19 killed and 50 wounded.
Bryan Whitman, a pentagon spokesman, said, "Anytime we're responsible for the loss of human life, we understand it hurts our ability to accomplish the mission."
May 10, 2007
"Air strikes called in by U.S. Special Forces soldiers fighting against insurgents in southern Afghanistan killed at least 21 civilians, an Afghan official said yesterday. . . Helmand province Gov. Assadullah Wafa said that Taliban fighters sought shelter in villagers' homes during the fighting in the Sangin district Tuesday evening and that subsequent air strikes killed 21 civilians, including several women and children.
Maj. William Mitchell, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said troops killed a 'significant' number of militants. 'We don't have any reports of civilian casualties,' Mitchell said." [BBC: "'There are confirmed reports of civilian casualties; however, it is unknown... how many,' a statement from US-led coalition troops said."]
So do the military people over there really understand that killing large numbers of civilians every time they call in F-18s or AC-130 gun ships undermines the mission, or is that just spin? Because this sort of thing just seems to keep happening, again and again. And aren't U.S. Special Forces supposed to be trained in languages and local customs?I'm just wondering because . . .
NPR reported yesterday on an incident [that was posted about here on May 3] which happened in the Zerkoh Valley of Herat province, on April 30th where U.S. Special Forces entered the village and started kicking down doors and searching homes. As Nelson points out, uninvited intruders kicking down an Afghan man's door and seeing his wife and daughter is an affront that can only be answered by an AK-47. In this case, local men confronted the US troops "with stones, shovels and Kalashnikovs."of
The Ameircans answered these Afghan minutemen with AC-130 guns ships, killing up to 50 civilians, women and children among them. One of the locals said he had fought the Soviets and the Warlords but had never seen anything like what the Americans threw at them. US forces have to be able to better distinguish between local farmers and Talibs, or this is going to be a long, long war. Nelson reports , "Local Afghans say American indifference to Afghan culture is to blame."
Another recent incident occurred just last week in which -- the numbers vary -- 38 to 40 civilians were killed and 20 to 50 were wounded in a 16-hour battle with US and ANA troops fighting a large contingent of Taliban near Shindand in Herat province. [see previous post]
The U.S. military claimed they'd killed 10 Taliban commanders, but denied civilians were also killed. Somehow they were able to determine that they'd killed Taliban commanders, yet they managed to miss all the civilian bodies lying all around. Naturally, it's a lot easier to claim no "collateral" damage and Taliban casualties in the hundreds when you're conducting your operations in the middle of nowhere.
The incidents in the Zerkoh Valley, which likked over 130, was so egregious that Hamid Karzai came out and said he "could no longer accept civilian casualties the way they occur." As usual, his protestations fell on deaf ears. He's condemned the U.S. before for high civilian death tolls, even breaking down in tears at one point, but no one ever listens to him. I mean, he's only the democratically elected president of a sovereign Afghanistan, after all.
And that's part of the reason Afghans have lost faith in the entire democratic enterprise. They're caught between U.S. bombers leveling dozens of houses at a time and the Taliban who come out at night and burn down their schools and threaten their Tribal leaders. And the same old warlords who spent a decade blasting the country to smithereens are back in power -- in the parliament no less! Even the Taliban governor, who ordered the destruction of the Buddhist statues is in the parliament!
We can pump all the money and troops we want into Afghanistan, but if we don't stop killing more civilians than the Taliban do, the Afghanis are going to decide to go with the devil they know -- the devil that, at least, has a track record of providing peace and security. Bungling the mission in Iraq is bad enough, but screwing up Afghanistan would be an even worse blunder.
Today, AP reports that because of all these killings by US forces Afghan parliamentarians are calling for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of coalition troops.
"The proposal from the upper house of parliament . . .suggests that Afghan support for the 5 1/2-year international military mission is crumbling amid a series of civilian deaths. The motion reflects lawmakers' belief that negotiations with militants would be more effective than fighting, said Aminuddin Muzafari, the secretary of the upper house."
The Afghans are pretty much homogeneous, they're reasonable, intelligent, peaceful -- except for the annual national past time of fighting in the mountains -- and they actually have fairly recently experienced a modern semi-democratic government, back in the 1960s. The Afghan people were more than happy to have us come in and throw out the Talibs and have us help them move into the 21st century. Instead, what's happened is that the second OBL and the Taliban were gone, we dropped the ball so W. could get his war on with Daddy's old nemesis in Iraq.
Now, it looks like they're going to be shipping us out if we don't shape up.