Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Apparently, General McCrystal is having some difficulty communicating the new policy about minimizing civilian casualties in the field. Or, could it possibly be that the purported new policy has only been announced for public relations purposes in the US?
U.S. Special Operations Forces ordered an airstrike that killed at least 27 civilians in southern Afghanistan and the soldiers may not have satisfied rules of engagement designed to avoid the killing of innocents, Afghan and coalition officials said Monday.
The airstrike Sunday hit a group of minibuses in a remote part of the south near the border between Uruzgan and Daykundi provinces. The area is hundreds of miles from Marjah, where the largest allied offensive since 2001 is now in its second week. But the airstrike nonetheless illustrated one of the major problems for coalition forces as they try to win over civilians in Marjah and across Afghanistan: figuring out who is a civilian and who is an insurgent—and not killing the civilians.
It also underscored the risks of the expanding use of Special Operations Forces, whose primary mission is hunting down Taliban, as the leading edge of the fight against the insurgents. Many Special Operations missions by their very nature emphasize the use of violent force, and coalition officials say they have led to a string of recent successes against valuable targets.
On the ground in Afghanistan, it seems that the war is being fought as it has always been fought, by attempting to instill fear in the civilian populace through the application of indiscriminate violence. In this instance, the intention is pretty clear. Special Forces fired upon any transport on the highway to send a strong message that it was a free fire zone and that anyone who traveled along it did so at the risk of their lives. They weren't overly concerned whether non-combatants were in the minibuses or not, as long as the Taliban got the message.