This week – once again – a US air strike killed a large number of Afghan civilians. The numbers are indefinite, somewhere between 76 and 90; the precise details still being filled in by various investigations. But again, again … bombs fell and famiies were destroyed.
Today our White House issued a statement:
"We regret the loss of life among the innocent Afghanis who we are committed to protect," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.
Once again, the words of “regret” – after days of denial. How many times have we read the same words – following the same air strikes in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Regret – but we have not once seen an example of accountability.
Excuses are made – “insurgents” were gathering, firing, or “gathering” in the vicinity – and after the fact, there are always "investigations" but the strategy of bombing without regard for civilian homes and lives never seems to change.
With today’s news of our “regret” there was also news of at least one effort at accountability. Afghan president Karzai condemned the strikes and:
Major General Jalandar Shah Behnam, commander of the 207th Corps, based in Herat, and Major Abdul Jabar, commander of a special forces battalion, were removed from their posts for negligence and for "concealing the truth," a statement from the presidential office said.
Karzai’s spokesman, Homayun Hamidzada, said that civilian casualties had been declining for several months but that recent airstrikes had reversed that trend. He said requests to U.S. forces for greater care concerning civilian casualties had had little effect. The coalition has said it does all it can to prevent civilian deaths.
"This puts us in a very difficult position," said one government official, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. "It provides propaganda to the Taliban and, if they don’t take responsibility, it actually helps the Taliban."
Welcome to the Afghanistan Surge.
Congratulations to Rohullah Nikpai of Afghanistan on his bronze medal – the first ever Olympic medal won by an athlete from his country.