Saturday, July 12, 2008

U.S. strike kills 47 civilians in Afghanistan

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's much easier to support the war in Afghanistan than the war in Iraq -- the former has always been far more justifiable than the latter, of course -- but not when this sort of thing happens:

A U.S. coalition force air strike on Sunday killed 47 civilians, including 39 women and children, in the eastern province of Nangarhar, an Afghan official said on Friday.

The U.S. military is denying that civilians were hit -- it was targeting militants, it is claiming, but:

"I reject the coalition statement saying that all those killed were militants," Burhanullah Shinwari, deputy speaker of the upper house, who is heading an investigation into Sunday's incident told Reuters on Friday. "There aren't any Taliban or Al Qaeda even several kilometers near to where the air strike took place. Fourty-seven people were killed; 39 of them were women and children," he said shortly after attending prayer ceremonies for the victims in the provincial capital Jalalabad.


An investigation has also been launched into another U.S. air strike carried out two days before Sunday's incident in which local officials say 15 civilians were killed.

I'm not one to think the worst of the U.S. military, but these are obviously rather disturbing incidents. As with the Iraq War, there is already the problem of mismanagement of the Afghan War by the U.S., gross mismanagement compounded by failure (to track down bin Laden, for example) and lack of commitment (with Iraq drawing most of the attention after the initial rout of the Taliban). Needless to say, the killing of civilians doesn't help matters. At best, giving the military the benefit of the doubt, it is a result of appalling negligence.

And so what of the legitimacy and purpose of the U.S. and coalition effort in Afghanistan?

One wonders.

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