US air attack in Afghanistan kills woman and seven children
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has confirmed the incident repeating his persistent but unheeded demand that strikes in residential areas cease. He claimed the attack has caused further harm to Afghan United States relations.
At least one other civilian was reported injured in the attack. The Obama administration has said nothing about the strike but NATO said that they were aware of the civilian deaths but that the strike was aimed "at an enemy force". An ISAF report gives their version of events with different civilian casualty figures:
"While moving through Ghorband district, ANSF commandos and their coalition advisers came under heavy fire from insurgents, resulting in the death of one ISAF service member. The force required defensive air support to suppress the enemy fire from two compounds. According to initial operational reports, at least 10 insurgents were killed. Tragically, two civilians inside a building from which insurgents were firing on the commandos were killed. "Note these are Afghan special forces but supervised by ISAF advisers. GIven that one ISAF member was killed they must be right in the thick of the fight.
The ISAF statement also noted that the operation was Afghan-led and was designed to disrupt insurgent activity in the Ghorband distrct of Parwan province. The statement notes that insurgent activity in the area targeted Bagram Airfield a prime U.S. base. Local and provincial officials were informed of the operation and kept up to date. Of course they probably had nothing to do with the air attack. The statement does not say who called in the air support.
This action plus Robert Gates revelations about U.S. attempts to manipulate Afghan presidential elections, will probably lead to Karzai's continued refusal to sign on to the Bilateral Security Agreement as demanded by Washington. Karzai's office issued a statement saying:
"As a result of bombardment by American forces last night... in Siahgird district of Parwan province, one woman and seven children were martyred and one civilian injured, The Afghan government has been asking for a complete end to operations in Afghan villages for years, but American forces acting against all mutual agreements... have once again bombarded a residential area and killed civilians."
A Taliban spokesperson claimed that 12 Afghan soldiers had been killed in the clash. The route where the clashes took place had been considered safe prior to last October but the Taliban are now active in the area. In spite of the fact that signing the Bilateral Security Agreement is a precondition for billions in aid for Afghanistan and in the face of threats to withdraw completely if it is not signed, Karzai continues to refuse to sign until his demands are met. If he does not give in I expect that the U.S. will manage to convince a newly elected president to sign in the spring rather than withdraw all troops.