Friday, July 11, 2008

Rubin: Afghan Government Charges on Killing Afghans -- U.S. 47, Terrorists 41

Here and elsewhere this week media covered the terrorist attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul. (Above, a picture sent by Hamid Alakozai.)

The Afghan government charged that Pakistan's intelligence service had organized it. After a couple days of silence from the U.S. government, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates answered a question about it:
"I haven't seen any evidence or proof that foreign agents were involved,'' Gates told reporters yesterday in Washington when asked about the July 7 car bombing that killed more than 50 people in the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
The delay in making a statement and the rather mild language used seems to me (without any direct evidence) to indicate internal dispute over how to respond.

Since I posted on the bombing, I learned that several of my friends were in the area. All the windows were blown out of the house of Pir Sayyid Ahmad Gailani, one of the leaders of the official parties of resistance to the Soviets and head of the Qadiriyya Sufi order; his daughter, Fatima Gailani, head of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, narrowly escaped the bomb.

The offices of Afghanistan's Center for Research & Policy Studies, a think tank founded by Idrees Rahmani and Harun Amin that was due to have its official opening that afternoon, was pretty much destroyed. Idrees writes:
We were badly hit by this incident. The whole office was destroyed and one of our staff was wounded by the shattered glasses. The rest of our staff have all escaped this blast narrowly with God's miracles. We still can not believe that no one is killed while the whole area was smashed. We had one American student from Stanford University working with us as an intern. He was really lucky because he left his chair in front of the window just a second before the blast smashed every thing.
That was on Monday July 7. There has been less coverage of an incident that occurred on July 6 in Shinwar district of Nangarhar province, which borders on Khyber Agency of Pakistan, where the government has been trying to regain control from militants. Original reports said that a U.S. bombing killed about 20 people. The U.S. originally stated that those killed were "militants," while local people reported they were civilians, including a bride on the way to a wedding.

A none-man Afghan government commission headed by the deputy speaker of the Afghan National Assembly upper house, Burhanullah Shinwari, has reported back to Kabul:
[Shinwari] told the BBC: ''Our investigation found out that 47 civilians (were killed) by the American bombing and nine others injured.>Reports at the time said that 20 people were killed in the airstrike in Nangarhar province. The US military said they were militants.

But local people said the dead were wedding party guests.

Correspondents say the issue of civilian casualties is hugely sensitive in Afghanistan.

The commission provided this video of victims:

A friend in the Afghan government who is dealing with the fallout hurriedly wrote:
The problem is that coalition is causing most of the casualties and then NATO/ISAF is left to answer to media. In turn, NATO plainly deny actual incidents like the one which took place a couple of days ago in Shinwar district of Nangarhar. Video and eye wintess accounts were all over the media and yet NATO point blank denied having killed anyone. This puts their credibility and ours seriously questioned.
President Karzai has long taken the position that these casualties result from excessive use of air power and, more fundamentally, from trying to combat an insurgency based in Pakistan by military action in Afghanistan. Within the past year NATO tightened up its rules on the use of air power to prevent such incidents, but it is not clear if the new restrictive rules apply to the Coalition, the "counter-terrorism" component of which is under CENTCOM as well as NATO command. This is what my correspondent was referring to. These killings of civilians probably do more than anything else to undermine the legitimacy of the government and international presence, and, as in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Vietnam in the 1960s, and many other cases are one of the main accelerators of insurgent recruitment.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

When you have three different Counter-terrorism commands running around the south and eastern provinces, it is difficult to blame the right culprit. The media doesn't seem to understand there are other units involved besides ISAF.

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