Afghan Civilians Still Being Killed By U.S. Troops in Shockingly High Numbers
This article, written by Richard Oppel, Jr., was published by the New York Times last week:
American and NATO troops firing from passing convoys and military checkpoints have killed 30 Afghans and wounded 80 others since last summer, but in no instance did the victims prove to be a danger to troops, according to military officials in Kabul.
“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year. His comments came during a recent videoconference to answer questions from troops in the field about civilian casualties.
Though fewer in number than deaths from airstrikes and Special Forces operations, such shootings have not dropped off, despite new rules from General McChrystal seeking to reduce the killing of innocents. The persistence of deadly convoy and checkpoint shootings has led to growing resentment among Afghans fearful of Western troops and angry at what they see as the impunity with which the troops operate — a friction that has turned villages firmly against the occupation.
As Chris Floyd observed in a blog post about the Times piece, it is rather — how to put it? unusual? — for the commander of all NATO troops in Afghanistan to be acknowledging this ongoing slaughter so openly, and for the U.S. ‘newspaper of record’ to be front-paging an article about it on their Internet edition.
It seems absurdly obvious to point out that when the President and his top general in Afghanistan are talking counterinsurgency and getting Afghan civilians on our side, on the one hand, and on the other hand, McChrystal’s ground troops are wantonly killing innocent civilians who, by McChrystal’s own admission are doing nothing to provoke such action, it kind of undercuts the strategy:
Failure to reduce checkpoint and convoy shootings, known in the military as “escalation of force” episodes, has emerged as a major frustration for military commanders who believe that civilian casualties deeply undermine the American and NATO campaign in Afghanistan.
Many of the detainees at the military prison at Bagram Air Base joined the insurgency after the shootings of people they knew, said the senior NATO enlisted man in Afghanistan, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall.
“There are stories after stories about how these people are turned into insurgents,” Sergeant Major Hall told troops during the videoconference. “Every time there is an escalation of force we are finding that innocents are being killed.”
One such case was the death of Mohammed Yonus, a 36-year-old imam and a respected religious authority, who was killed two months ago in eastern Kabul while commuting to a madrasa where he taught 150 students.
A passing military convoy raked his car with bullets, ripping open his chest as his two sons sat in the car. The shooting inflamed residents and turned his neighborhood against the occupation, elders there say.
So far, however, the sound of silence from other major news organizations, not to mention the White House, is deafening.
To comment on this post, go here.