June 21, 2009

COIN 101

The New York Times has reported that a new set of restrictions has been placed on air-strikes in Afghanistan. The U.N. says American, NATO, and Afghan forces killed 829 civilians last year. America doesn't have the benefit of the doubt in this situation and must prove itself.


Unfortunately, America has a history of not doing what it says or following its own recommendations. Officials have promised for years to reduce civilian casualties without success. Defense secretary Robert Gates recently visited Kabul and quickly contradicted himself.

“I think the key for us is, on those rare occasions when we do make a mistake, when there is an error, to apologize quickly, to compensate the victims quickly, and then carry out the investigation," Gates said.

Few Afghans believe America rarely makes mistakes. Nor did Gates apologize for or even mention the incident two weeks ago in the Shahrak district of Ghor province, which came a month after the more publicized bombing in Granai village. Gates went on to lament how the war is stalemated, but evidently not from American mistakes.

The NYT offers an additional contradiction on the Pentagon's investigation, which reported 26 civilian casualties. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission claimed at least 86 women and children were killed, as many as 97 civilians total.

"The Pentagon report did not dispute the conclusions reached by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and referred to its 'balanced, thorough investigation.'"

How the Pentagon didn't dispute the difference between 97 and 26 challenges the imagination.

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