In a disturbing preview of what is likely to come as the US military escalates its troop presence in Afghanistan, the US was forced to admit over the weekend that “a precision strike” against so-called “militants” killed 13 civilians:
“An operation the American military at first described as a “precision strike” instead killed 13 Afghan civilians and only three militants, the U.S. said Saturday, three days after sending a general to the site to investigate.
The U.S. military originally said 15 militants were killed Tuesday in a coalition operation in the Gozara district of Herat province, but Afghan officials said six women and two children were among the dead, casting doubt on the U.S. claim.
Afghan officials say the group targeted in the airstrikes were living in two tents in a remote area. An ethnic group of Afghans known as Kuchis travel the countryside with livestock and live in tents. Photographs obtained by The Associated Press from the site showed the body of a dead young boy bloodied and dirtied.”
However, lest people remember that the United States is actually responsible for a good percentage of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the US attempted to put a positive spin on the attack. The U.S. is arguing that the fact that it investigated the deaths instead of denying them is proof that the U.S. cares about Afghani civilians. Moreover, the U.S. is apparently shifting its policy to apologize and compensate victims of air strikes.
In recent months, Afghanistan has increasingly called for a time line for U.S. withdrawal from the country.
Casualties Rising in Afghanistan
The news comes just a few days after the release of new figures from the United Nations showing that 2,118 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year. It is a 40% increase over 2007. Western military forces were responsible for 39% of the casualties, with Afghani militants responsible for 55%.