Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Oops! American Airstrike On Afghan Police Kills Seven, Wounds Five More

According to Abdul Waheed Wafa in the New York Times:

U.S. Forces Kill Afghan Police Officers
KABUL, Afghanistan, June 12 — American-led forces killed seven Afghan policemen and injured five more in an exchange of fire early this morning that Afghan police officials said was a result of mistaken identity.

“The American troops were coming towards the Afghan police post as both sides did not know the identity of each other,” said Nasir Ahmad Safi, an Afghan police official in Nengrahar province. He said the bodies of the policemen were riddled with bullets.
In the photo (by Rafiq Shirzad, courtesy of Reuters),
an Afghan policeman searches through the debris of a police post damaged by a U.S.-led air attack in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
As you can see, there's not much left of the police post either.

Here's a big surprise: various "coalition" accounts of the event differ -- not only from what the Afghans are saying but also from each other!
A spokesman for the coalition forces said that members of a coalition unit were on their way to carry out an operation at a Taliban house in the Shirzad district of Nengrahar province on Monday night when they were ambushed and attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.

The coalition forces returned fire and called in air support, said Maj. Chris Belcher, a spokesman.
Ahh. They were ambushed. Or maybe it was something else?
Another coalition statement said that coalition forces were challenged by an unknown person wearing civilian clothes and carrying a weapon, who shined a flashlight at them and then opened fire.

“There was nothing during the firefight to indicate the opposing force was friendly,” the statement said. “The individuals who fired on coalition forces were not in uniform.”
So what was it? An unknown person wearing civilian clothes? A "friendly" opposing force? An ambush? A mistake?? Or just another case of "Tough shit, ragheads. We're here to win your hearts and minds."
Afghan authorities regularly complain of a lack of coordination between the coalition forces and Afghan forces, saying the result has been many civilian casualties.
Civilian casualties don't matter to the "coalition" forces, of course. (That's why they call them "collateral damage".)

But if the public reaction to massive civilian casualties -- especially in the "coalition" countries -- begins to encroach on the twin sacred illusions (that we're there because they want us there, and that we're winning), hand-wringing may possibly ensue.

Spinning will ensue, regardless:
The coalition statement said that coalition forces coordinated with unspecified officials to make sure that there would be no conflicting operations in the same area. But the Afghan police in Nengrahar said they were not aware of any operation by coalition troops on Monday night.
Once again we see the difference between theory and practice; Theoretically coordinating with the "hosts" is a good thing. But in practice, who needs coordination when you can call in air support?