BBC News – 2010-09-06 00:36:25
Afghan Election Campaign Workers ‘Killed in Air Strike’
(September 2, 2010) — Ten election campaign workers have been killed in an air strike by NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, officials say. The governor of the northern province of Takhar, Abduljabar Taqwa, told the BBC that two people were also wounded in the attack in the Rostaq district.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the incident, saying that “pro-democracy people should be distinguished from those who fight against democracy.” A NATO spokesman said a “precision air strike” had hit a militant’s vehicle.
The target was a senior member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) who regularly coordinated and conducted attacks with Taliban insurgents, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
“Intelligence tracked the insurgents traveling in a sedan on a series of remote roads in Rostaq district. After careful planning to ensure no civilians were present, coalition aircraft conducted a precision air strike on one sedan and later followed with direct fire from an aerial platform. “The vehicle was traveling as part of a six-car convoy, but no other vehicles were hit in the strike,” the statement added.
The ISAF statement said “initial reflections” indicated that up to 12 insurgents had been killed or wounded, including a Taliban commander. “Multiple passengers of the vehicle were positively identified carrying weapons,” it added.
Mr Taqwa told the BBC that the Rostaq district was peaceful and that there had been “not a single anti-government member in the area”.
“Without any co-ordination, without informing provisional authorities, they attacked, on their own, civilian people who were in a campaign convoy.” The governor said Abdulawahid Khorasani, a parliamentary candidate on his way to campaign in Rostaq with supporters and several armed guards, was among those hurt.
The district governor of Rostaq, Malim Hussian, told the BBC: “Around 0900 this morning, a convoy of around 100 cars belonging to Mr Khorasani left Khwaja Bahawideen for a village called Kay Wan.
“[A fighter] jet first dropped a bomb. After that there were two helicopters, which fired heavy machine-guns. As a result 10 people were killed, including a local commander called Aminullah,” a former member of the Mujahideen who was not a member of the Taliban, he said.
“I want the international forces to use proper channels for intelligence. A Taliban commander or a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan does not travel in a 100-vehicle convoy.”
Mr Khorasani, whose was injured in the strike, told the BBC that the victims were his family members and supporters involved in his campaign.
“I thought that the foreign troops came here to bring us security and democracy. I believed they were helping us so that we can campaign for the parliamentary election. Instead they attacked me,” he said, speaking from his home in Kabul.
‘Source of tension’
US Marine Corps Maj Gen David Garza said: “We’re aware of the allegations that this strike caused civilian casualties and we’ll do our best to get to the bottom of the accusations.”
President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai (R) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (L) during a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace September 2, 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan The incident came only hours before US Defence Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Kabul. He added: “We’re confident this strike hit only the targeted vehicle after days of tracking the occupants’ activity.”
President Karzai’s office strongly condemned the strike. “Air bombardments in the villages of Afghanistan will only end up killing civilians and will not be effective in the fight against terrorism,” it said.
The BBC’s Mark Dummett in Kabul says the air strike happened at an awkward time — hours before the arrival in the capital of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates. He is due to hold talks with Mr Karzai, and the issue of civilian casualties is sure to be discussed — it is a major source of tension between the two countries.
Last September, a US air strike called in by German troops in neighbouring Kunduz province left at least 30 civilians dead. No foreign troops are stationed in Takhar. There are, however, currently about 150,000 deployed throughout the rest of the country fighting the Taliban.
Afghan Civilian Toll Points to ISAF Mission Dilemma
Ian Pannell / BBC News
KABUL (August 10, 2010) — There is huge pressure on ISAF to make headway in the fight against the Taliban. This is the latest in a series of biannual reports by the UN and confirms that violence continues to increase across Afghanistan. It is not just soldiers but civilians who are being killed or injured in unprecedented numbers in this nine-year old conflict.
According to the UN’s special representative in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, “the human cost of the conflict is escalating in 2010 and civilian casualties are increasing substantially”. He described the findings as “a wake-up-call”.
The 31% rise in civilian casualties tells the story of a war that is evolving with few signs that it is easing. According to the UN report, more than three-quarters of deaths and injuries are now at the hands of the Taliban, while there has been a marked reduction in those attributed to foreign troops or Afghan security forces.
Women and children in particular are bearing the brunt, with an extraordinary 155% rise in the numbers of young people dying in insurgent bomb blasts.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has said the figures corroborate its own numbers, which also show that the insurgents are responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths and injuries.
The UN report says the tactical directive issued by Gen Stanley McChrystal last year when he was the commander of ISAF, which imposed strict guidelines on the use of air assaults, has had an impact.
An Afghan man is brought into hospital in Ghazni, Afghanistan, after his car was hit by a roadside bomb blast on August 10, 2010. Civilians often complain that the arrival of foreign troops in their neighbourhoods provokes violence
For a mission that proclaims to be “population-centric” that should be a positive development. But the dilemma for the government and its international sponsors is that they share a disproportionate part of the blame.
Afghans caught up in suicide blasts and attacks with roadside bombs that are the work of the Taliban often blame ISAF troops for their injuries. Bereaved families consistently complain that it is the arrival of foreign troops in their neighbourhoods that provokes the violence that leads to death.
Military commanders and Western politicians insist that the increase in violence is an inevitable result of the surge in troops and the deliberate targeting of the insurgents in areas they had previously regarded as “safe havens”.
Codes of conduct
Operation Moshtarak in Helmand province followed by Operation Hamkari, which is ongoing in neighbouring Kandahar, have certainly applied more pressure on the insurgents, and there has been an increase in fighting. But unless that leads to increased security and a decline in deaths and injuries then their chances of success could be slim.
Both the Taliban and ISAF have their codes of conduct. Both recognise the importance of protecting the population in a battle to win hearts and minds. But on my numerous trips to the south, there is little proof that either is achieving its goal.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Qari Yousef, told the BBC that they were “fighting the Christians to stop them from killing Afghans”. He is adamant that the insurgents are not responsible for civilian casualties and dismissed the report as propaganda by ISAF and NATO.
Mr Yousef said the Taliban deliberately warned people if there was a bomb buried in the road ahead and watched to ensure it was foreign troops who were the target.
But a visit to any local hospital in the aftermath of an attack tells a different story. The wards are often full of people who did nothing other than be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and too many are paying the ultimate price.
This was supposed to be the year when the insurgents lost their momentum and Afghans started to feel safer in their homes, fields, schools and villages.
That simply has not happened yet and there is huge pressure on the new ISAF commander, Gen David Petraeus, to achieve something his many predecessors have failed to.
In his news conference, Staffan de Mistura said this was “a crucial time in a crucial year”. But eight months in, there is very little evidence that the reinvigorated coalition mission is having the desired effect.
Until it does — or until the much talked of “reconciliation process” with the Taliban translates into something meaningful — then men, women and children will continue to be killed and injured here in a war they neither chose or support.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.