First, everyone's splashing the news of al-Maliki's indignation over Bob Woodward's "big-mouth" reportage of US spying.
In Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai wants the US to stop using air support in his country. Understandably he feels that it's counterproductive. Recently, Sixty Minutes sent one of its intrepid reporters to Afghanistan to check out claims that a recent air strike had killed only civilians. Although not blatant, it was obvious that CBS was approaching the story with a bias against using air power. Karzai was featured and said that he had asked the administration to stop using airstrikes. He said that he was going public in order to get quicker action on his request.
Women and children killed by NATO bombs is very bad PR but is there doubt about the Taliban's ability to exploit and exaggerate or even fabricate these incidents.
The "other side" is trying to build up a "head of steam" on this issue and now, with Karzai's support, they may successfully take away a valuable tool in the NATO arsenal.
From the NYTimes:On top of all this is the ongoing turmoil in Pakistan, the Mullahs in Iran, Russian thugishness, the never to be trusted North Koreans and the continuing failure to defeat entrenched enemies in the Middle East.
September 3, 2008
American Inquiry Disputes Afghan Deaths
By CARLOTTA GALL
KABUL, Afghanistan — An American military investigation concluded Tuesday that only five to seven civilians and 30 to 35 Taliban were killed in an airstrike operation in western Afghanistan last week, far lower than the figure of 90 civilians that Afghanistan and the United Nations found in their preliminary investigations. Two civilians were also wounded, the American command said in a statement.
The American military investigation was a standard internal one, and comes ahead of a joint investigation the military has agreed to conduct with the United Nations and the Afghan government to try and reconcile the vastly differing accounts of what happened and how many people died.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the operation at the time and dismissed two Afghan commanders for what he called dereliction of duty and concealing the truth, after a government delegation to the area had concluded that large numbers of women and children died in the airstrike operation. The United Nations’ special representative in Afghanistan also expressed grave concern at the civilian casualties and said a human rights team had found convincing evidence that 90 people had been killed, 60 of them children. Since then the United Nations has refused further comment pending conclusion of investigations.
The American military command, which had originally reported a successful operation that killed 25 militants, then announced it was opening an investigation into the event.
Its conclusions Tuesday did not differ much from the first military reports, however. The operation was a planned offensive conducted in the early hours of Aug. 22 in the village of Azizabad, in Herat province, and Afghan and American forces came under fire as they approached their objective, the statement said. The intensity of the fire on them justified using small-arms and close air support, it said.
The military investigator conducted interviews with 30 Afghan and American participants in the operation and reviewed reports made by ground and air personnel during the engagement, the statement said. The investigator also used video taken during the engagement, photos taken at the scene, and weapons, explosives and intelligence materials collected at the site, some of which suggested militants were planning an attack on a nearby American base. “The engagement disrupted any planned attack,” the statement said.
The investigation found that 30 to 35 Taliban militants were killed, including evidence suggesting a known Taliban commander, Mullah Sadiq, was among them.