Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Civilian deaths in Afghanistan

By Michael J.W. Stickings

And, lest we forget, we must also be ever mindful of the human cost of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, forgotten Afghanistan. From Reuters:

A leading human rights group on Monday urged NATO to do more to avoid civilian casualties in Afghanistan, saying reports of increasing civilian deaths were "turning the local population against" the Western alliance...

Afghan authorities are investigating allegations that about 60 civilians were killed last week as a result of NATO operations in Kandahar province, where the Taliban was born. Local leaders and villagers said dozens more were wounded and 25 houses were razed during several hours of NATO bombing.

I'm not against NATO operations in Afghanistan -- indeed, I (and many others) have long argued that the war there should have taken priority over the misadventure in Iraq, if only Iraq hadn't become the obsessive focus of Bush's attention -- but, clearly, this latest development isn't good. With Afghanistan teetering on the brink of anarchy, with a national government under Karzai that is little more than a municipal government in Kabul, and with the Taliban and al Qaeda still very much a dangerous and influential presence in the region, it is imperative not only that the war go well for the allies but that Afghani hearts and minds be won over.

Killing civilians, however unintentional, isn't exactly the way to do that.

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