McChrystal and civilian casualties
The NY Times reports on the aggressive measures American forces are taking to show their concern for civilian casualties during the battle for Marja:
MARJA, Afghanistan — Twelve bodies — five children, five women and two men — were wrapped head to toe in woolen blankets, lying in a neat row on the floor of the only room remaining in a house that had been blasted to mud-brick rubble by at least one and possibly two 675-pound rockets.
A United States Marine Corps battalion commander, Lt. Col. Brian Christmas, stood in that room on Tuesday with a relative of the victims, a local elder named Hajji Mohammad Karim, and said what he could.
“I bring my deepest condolences and will provide all of my support,” the colonel told him…
After learning of their error, the Marines risked their own lives to help the situation.
After the Marines saw children stream out of the ruined house, the company commander immediately ordered a cease-fire. With Taliban snipers still trying to pick them off, his men raced across the flat, open expanse between their positions and the house, where medics rendered what first aid they could.
They initially counted 11 dead, because one woman was still alive. Marine Corps medics worked to stabilize her condition, although she had lost three limbs. A helicopter came in to evacuate the wounded, but took so much Taliban ground fire that it had to lift off again before the wounded could be loaded on board. The woman died, making the death toll 12.
The risks did not end there.
In the mud-brick charnel house where the Afghans were killed, Hajji Karim, the local elder, took up Colonel Christmas’s offer of assistance on Tuesday.
The victims had already been dead for more than two days. Muslims believe in prompt burial, but the family had no way to carry the bodies through the battlefield to the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, 17 miles away. Would the Americans take them?
Within hours, a Marine Corps Osprey, a transport aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter, put down nearby, taking enemy fire as it came in, and the Marines grimly loaded the bodies aboard for the trip to the cemetery.