It seems that McKiernan who took over as head of NATO forces from Bomber McNeil is following in the bombing tradition. The outlook for Afghanistan is more recruits for the Taliban and on the NATO side a surge in Afghanistan led by that great agent for change Barack Obama.
July 18, 2008
Strike Kills 2 Afghan Tribal Leaders, NATO Says
By CARLOTTA GALL
KABUL, Afghanistan — American Special Forces troops and Afghan commandos killed two influential tribal leaders and a number of their followers in western Afghanistan in a joint airborne operation on Wednesday night, military officials said Thursday. But as with some previous operations, there were differing accounts over whether the strike also killed Afghan civilians.
NATO and the Afghan Ministry of Defense declared that the tribal leaders were high-priority Taliban targets and that the operation against them was successful. In a statement from its press office in Kabul, NATO said there was no evidence of civilian casualties.
Villagers, however, gave a different account, saying houses had been bombed and civilians had been killed and wounded as they fled. Local officials confirmed the bombardment and damage to houses but did not say whether civilians had been killed or wounded.
The operation took place in the Zerkoh Valley near Shindand in Herat, a western province where United States Special Forces clashed with the same tribe in April 2007. When they came under fire from villagers, the Special Forces called in airstrikes on the village, resulting in 57 deaths, including women and children.
Those strikes, occurring the month after marines killed 19 civilians in eastern Afghanistan, caused an outcry from Afghan politicians and aid organizations and led the NATO commander at the time, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, to issue orders to his forces to take extra care to avoid civilian casualties.
Gen. David D. McKiernan, who took over command of the NATO forces in Afghanistan in June, is facing a similar problem. As insurgent attacks have increased, so have civilian casualties caused by airstrikes. Calls in Parliament and around Afghanistan are again increasing for the foreign forces to stop their bombing raids. The Red Cross called for the Taliban and the foreign forces to show greater restraint in view of the civilian suffering.
President Hamid Karzai flew by helicopter on Thursday to commiserate with residents in a mountain village in eastern Nangarhar Province where 47 people, mostly women and children, accompanying a bride to a neighboring village were killed in an aerial bombardment on July 6. The United States military said it had killed militants, but a government delegation visited the area and confirmed that the dead had been women and children and included the bride.
Two days before that assault, 15 civilians, including medical workers, were killed in airstrikes in Nuristan Province, government officials said. The United States military, which contended at the time that it had killed militants, has said the matter is under investigation.
The United States-led coalition said Wednesday that it had called in airstrikes on a compound after coming under fire from militants in western Afghanistan and confirmed that eight civilians inside had been killed and two had been wounded.
“Coalition forces never intentionally target noncombatants, and deeply regret any occurrence such as this where civilians are killed and injured as a result of insurgent activity and actions,” the coalition said in a statement.
Government officials said 15 militants were killed in the operation on Wednesday night. Afghan commandos and American Special Forces attacked a militant camp in a mountainous area away from villages, said Gen. Zaher Azimi, the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense.
The leader of the militant group, Nangialai, and two of his uncles, Hajji Daulat Khan and Hajji Nasrullah Khan, were killed, General Azimi said. He said the forces had intercepted them making a call to Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal areas, asking for reinforcements from the Taliban. The commandos also freed 15 prisoners they found being held in grim conditions in a private lockup, he said. General Azimi denied that there were any civilian casualties.
But the Khans and members of their tribe had insisted in the past that they had no dealings with the Taliban and that local rivalries had caused government officials to brand them as Taliban.
Zalmai, 31, who brought his wounded uncle to the hospital in Shindand, said planes bombed their village, Parmakan, and two other places, causing many residents to panic and flee. Many were killed or wounded as they left on motorbikes and on foot, he said by telephone.
Zalmai, a shopkeeper who uses only one name, said eight other wounded people, including women and children, were taken to the hospital. He said that more wounded people were still lying under the rubble or in the open and that the soldiers were not letting villagers reach them.
Local officials confirmed that the bombing hit some houses. Abdul Shukur, the Shindand police chief, said three houses were destroyed, The Associated Press reported.
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, and Alan Cowell from London.