While the western media narrative is filled with voting in Iraq and attempts to sort out what Obama’s Afghanistan policy will look like after another 30,000 troops—an increase that is described in an AP report as “a finger in the dike while Obama recalibrates a chaotic mishmash of military and development objectives”—there’s little notice of the continued killing of Afghan civilians by US forces.
Three recent U.S. Special Forces operations killed 50 people—the vast majority civilians, Afghan officials say—raising the ire of villagers and President Hamid Karzai, who set a one-month deadline for his demand that Afghan soldiers play a bigger role in military operations.
“If these operations are again conducted in our area, all of our people are ready to carry out jihad. We cannot tolerate seeing the dead bodies of our children and women anymore,” said Malik Malekazratullah, the Afghan who ranted at the Americans. “I’ve already told President Karzai we are out of patience.”
Afghan officials say an overnight raid Jan. 7 in the village of Masmoot in Laghman killed 19 civilians. A raid in Kapisa on Jan. 19 killed 15 people, mostly civilians. And a second Laghman raid Jan. 23, in Guloch village, killed 16, they say.
In addition to the 50 listed above, three more civilians were killed by US forces Saturday, including two children in Helmand and a tribal elder in Paktia.
After each such incident, American military officials promise that more care will be taken—yet we still read accounts like these from Laghman:
An angry Afghan man with a thick black beard ranted wildly at the U.S. officials, shouting about how their overnight raid had killed 16 civilians in his village. An Afghan elder cried out in grief that his son and four grandsons were among the dead.
"One young boy said his whole family was killed, and now he wants to become a suicide bomber. This is a very negative message," Mashal said. "
These deaths occurred during nighttime raids by US Special Forces—and Afghan officials are asking that Afghan soldiers be included in the teams used—saying:
Afghans soldiers could prevent the kinds of deaths that Abdul Mateen, a village elder from Masmoot, described at the meeting. Mateen said a woman tried to leave the village to escape the battle.
"Then someone shouted at her. Maybe they told her to stop, but she couldn’t understand, so they shot her," Mateen told the group. "So even people trying to get away couldn’t escape."
After years of similar reports from both Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s shameful to see this continued lack of care for the very people we claim to want to "save"—and you would think that even simple self-interest would finally lead military commanders to stop making speeches like Gates’ above—and actually change the rules of engagement. As one member of the Afghan Parliament reminded them after the 16 civilians were killed this week:
“Maybe there were only two or three insurgents in Guloch, but I can tell you that there are thousands now."