Afghan President Hamid Karzai has delivered the latest in a series of ultimatums to NATO about civilian casualties from airstrikes. The most recent errant airstrike killed 14 women and children in Helmand province and entirely missed its target of Taliban militants.
Mr Karzai said his government had repeatedly asked the US to stop raids which end up killing Afghan civilians and this was his “last warning”.
A Nato spokesman said a team had been sent to Helmand province to investigate the attack carried out on Saturday [...]
“The president called this incident a great mistake and the murdering of Afghanistan’s children and women, and on behalf of the Afghan people gives his last warning to the US troops and US officials in this regard,” his office said.
The White House said it shared Mr Karzai’s concerns and took them “very seriously”.
They may take Karzai’s concerns very seriously, but I find it hard to believe that about the underlying issue. Because civilian casualties are a by-product of war, and while NATO and the US can talk about care and precision, short of stopping they bombing they won’t stop the killing. These are not “arbitrary and improper operations,” as Karzai called them. They’re the normal operations that NATO undertakes all the time. Sometimes they miss. Or sometimes they hit a target that turns out to be the wrong one. Last week, a NATO airstrike killed 20 men considered to be Taliban in local dress. It turns out they were all plainclothes police officers. The officers were investigating police checkpoints that Taliban overran and then abandoned before the airstrikes came. The checkpoints still flew the Taliban flag, so NATO bombed them.
Memorial Day is often a time to reflect on the soldiers who die in war. Why not also the civilians? Why not these five girls, seven boys and two women killed in their sleep from an object dropped on them at 10,000 feet, without warning? Don’t they deserve a memorial? Don’t their families and countrymen deserve to be free of a life in fear that they could be the next target of a poorly aimed bomb from the sky?
In other news from Afghanistan today, the normally calm city of Herat saw a suicide attack that killed at least four Afghans and wounded some Italian soldiers. NATO has scheduled the security apparatus in Herat to transfer to Afghan control in July. The Taliban wanted to bomb the Italian military base; when a second suicide bomber couldn’t get near the base, he blew himself up. “Our aim was not to kill civilians,” said a Taliban spokesman.
In memoriam of the civilians.