UN Finds Evidence 90 Civilians Dead in US-Led Strikes

Tuesday, 26 August 2008 12:27 by: Anonymous

UN Finds Evidence 90 Civilians Dead in US-Led Strikes

    Kabul - A United Nations team has found "convincing evidence" that 90 civilians, including 60 children, were killed in US-led air strikes last week, the body's representative in Afghanistan said Tuesday.

    The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) human rights team was sent to the western province of Herat after local claims that scores of civilians were killed in Friday's strikes.

    "Investigations by UNAMA found convincing evidence, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses and others, that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, 15 women and 15 men," special representative Kai Eide said.

Also see below:     
Chris Hedges | Pouring Gas on the Afghanistan Bonfire    â€¢

    "Fifteen other villagers were wounded or otherwise injured," he said in a statement.

    A separate investigation appointed by President Hamid Karzai said at the weekend that more than 90 civilians were killed in the strikes.

    The toll is one of the highest for civilians killed in military action since international troops started deploying to Afghanistan in 2001 to topple the hardline Taliban regime and root out other extremists.

    The US-led coalition had initially said only 30 Taliban had died but acknowledged on Tuesday that five civilians - two women and three children - were also dead in the strikes which had killed a Taliban target.

    "We believe those to be family members of the targeted militant, Mullah Sadiq. He was important for us to target," US Lieutenant Nathan Perry told AFP from the main US military base at Bagram north of Kabul.

    The UN special representative said his team had met with the district governor and local elders on Monday and interviewed people from the affected areas.

    The villagers said foreign and Afghan military personnel had entered the village on the night of August 21.

    "Military operations lasted several hours during which air strikes were called in," his statement said.

    "The destruction from aerial bombardment was clearly evident with some 78 houses having been totally destroyed and serious damage to many others," he said.

    The matter was of "grave concern" to the United Nations, Eide said.

    "I have repeatedly made clear that the safety and welfare of civilians must be considered above all else during the planning and conduct of all military operations," he said.

    "The impact of such operations undermines the trust and confidence of the Afghan people in efforts to build a just, peaceful, and law-abiding state."

    Eide called on Afghan and international troops to thoroughly review the operation to avoid a repeat of the incident.

    The Afghan government Monday demanded a review of all rules regulating the international military presence in Afghanistan.

    "Air strikes on civilian targets, uncoordinated house searches and illegal detention of Afghan civilians must be stopped," a cabinet statement said.

    Afghanistan had made significant progress since 2001, when the Taliban regime was toppled, Karzai's spokesman Homayun Hamidzada told reporters Tuesday, explaining the cabinet decision.

    The extremists left behind them a country ruined by decades of war and mismanagement.

    "Today we have structure, government, parliament, legal authorities and our national institutions have reached strength, our police and army are growing," Hamidzada said.

    "The requirement of time - as well as painful incidents of civilian casualties - compelled the Afghan government to demand talks on regulating the presence of international forces in Afghanistan," he said.

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Pouring Gas on the Afghanistan Bonfire

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by: Chris Hedges, Truthdig

    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan grind forward with their terrible human toll, even as the press and many Americans play who gets thrown off the island with Barack Obama. Coalition forces carried out an airstrike that killed up to 95 Afghan civilians in western Afghanistan on Friday, 50 of them children, President Hamid Karzai said. And the mounting bombing raids and widespread detentions of Afghans are rapidly turning Afghanistan into the mirror image of Iraq. But these very real events, which will have devastating consequences over the next few months and years, are largely ignored by us. We prefer to waste our time on the trivia and gossip that swallow up air time and do nothing to advance our understanding of either the campaign or the wars fought in our name.

    As the conflict in Afghanistan has intensified, so has the indiscriminate use of airstrikes, including Friday's, which took place in the Azizabad area of Shindand district in Herat province. The airstrike was carried out after Afghan and coalition soldiers were ambushed by insurgents while on a patrol targeting a known Taliban commander in Herat, the U.S. military said. Hundreds of Afghans, shouting anti-U.S. slogans, staged angry street protests on Saturday in Azizabad to protest the killings, and Karzai condemned the airstrike.

    The United Nations estimates that 255 of the almost 700 civilian deaths in fighting in Afghanistan this year have been caused by Afghan and international troops. The number of civilians killed in fighting between insurgents and security forces in Afghanistan has soared by two-thirds in the first half of this year.

    Ghulam Azrat, the director of the middle school in Azizabad, said he collected 60 bodies after the bombing.

    "We put the bodies in the main mosque,'' he told the Associated Press by phone, sometimes pausing to collect himself as he wept. "Most of these dead bodies were children and women. It took all morning to collect them."

    Azrat said villagers on Saturday threw stones at Afghan soldiers who arrived and tried to give out food and clothes. He said the soldiers fired into the crowd and wounded eight people, including one child.

    "The people were very angry," he said. "They told the soldiers, 'We don't need your food, we don't need your clothes. We want our children. We want our relatives. Can you give [them] to us? You cannot, so go away.' "

    We are in trouble in Afghanistan. Sending more soldiers and Marines to fight the Taliban is only dumping gasoline on the bonfire. The Taliban assaults, funded largely by the expanded opium trade, are increasingly sophisticated and well coordinated. And the Taliban is exacting a rising toll on coalition troops. Soldiers and Marines are now dying at a faster rate in Afghanistan than Iraq. In an Aug. 18 attack, only 30 miles from the capital, Kabul, the French army lost 10 and had 21 wounded. The next day, hundreds of militants, aided by six suicide bombers, attacked one of the largest U.S. bases in the country. A week before that, insurgents killed three foreign aid workers and their Afghan driver, prompting international aid missions to talk about withdrawing from a country where they already have very limited access.

    Barack Obama, like John McCain, speaks about Afghanistan in words that look as if they were penned by the Bush White House. Obama may call for withdrawing some U.S. troops from Iraq, but he does not want to send them all home. He wants to send them to Afghanistan, or to what he obliquely terms "the right battlefield." Obama said he would deploy an additional 10,000 troops to Afghanistan once he took office.

    The seven-year war in Afghanistan has not gone well. An additional 3,200 Marines were deployed there in January. Karzai's puppet government in Kabul controls little territory outside the capital. And our attempt to buy off tribes with money and even weapons has collapsed, with most tribal groups slipping back into the arms of the Taliban insurgents.

    Do the cheerleaders for an expanded war in Afghanistan know any history? Have they studied what happened to the Soviets, who lost 15,000 Red Army soldiers between 1979 and 1988, or even the British in the 19th century? Do they remember why we went into Afghanistan? It was, we were told, to hunt down Osama bin Laden, who is now apparently in Pakistan. Has anyone asked what our end goal is in Afghanistan? Is it nation-building? Or is this simply the forever war on terror?

    Al-Qaida, which we have also inadvertently resurrected, is alive and well. It still finds plenty of recruits. It still runs training facilities. It still caries out attacks in London, Madrid, Iraq and now Afghanistan, which did not experience suicide bombings until December 2005. Al-Qaida has moved on. But we remain stuck, confused and lashing about wildly like a wounded and lumbering beast.

    We do not have the power or the knowledge, nor do we have the right under international law, to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. We are vainly trying to transplant to these countries a modern system of politics invented in Europe. This system is characterized by, among other things, the division of the Earth into independent secular states based on national citizenship. The belief in a secular civil government is to most Afghans and Iraqis an alien creed. It will never work.

    We have blundered into nations we know little about. We are caught between bitter rivalries among competing ethnic and religious groups. We have embarked on an occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan that is as damaging to our souls as it is to our prestige and power and security. And we believe, falsely, that because we have the capacity to wage war we have the right to wage war.

    We divert ourselves in our dotage and decline with images and slogans that perpetuate fantasies about our own invulnerability, our own might, our own goodness. We are preoccupied by national trivia games that pass for news, even as the wolf pants at our door. These illusions blind us. We cannot see ourselves as others see us. We do not know who we are.

    "We had fed the heart on fantasies," William Butler Yeats wrote, "the heart's grown brutal from the fare."

    We are propelled forward not by logic or compassion or understanding but by fear. We have created and live in a world where violence is the primary form of communication. We have become the company we keep. Much of the world-certainly the Muslim world, one-fifth of the world's population, most of whom are not Arab-sees us through the prism of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. We are igniting the dispossessed, the majority of humanity who live on less than two dollars a day. And whoever takes the White House next January seems hellbent on fueling our self-immolation.

Last modified on Tuesday, 26 August 2008 13:24