Den viktigaste förklaringen det relativt höga antalet civila dödsoffer kommer i den sist citerade paragrafen. Det är användningen av stridsflyg som ersättning för soldater på marken. Och en underrättelsetjänst som inte tar hänsyn till att lokala Afghaner kan lämna falsk information för att bli av med rivaliserande klaner.
Det är mönstret från Irak som upprepar sig i Afghanistan. För få trupper och ingen hänsyn till lokala förhållanden. Först nu har det börjat gå upp de generaler som leder trupper i Afghanistan att urskillningslöst dödande av civila motverkar syftet med att stabilisera Afghanistan.
Vad det i grunden handlar om är förstås att det finns ingen militär lösning till Afghanistan.
Till detta har vi i Sverige som satsar 798 miljoner kr på att hålls soldater i Afghanistan förstås inget att säga.
Afghans’ Toll Shakes Generals
By JOHN F. BURNS
KABUL, Afghanistan — A generation ago, when the Soviets were in Afghanistan, they lost the battle for hearts and minds quickly by showing scant concern for human rights. Estimates run as high as 1.5 million dead and 10,000 villages destroyed. Now, Americans labor in the shadow of that history, and that helps to explain why alarm bells are ringing in the NATO headquarters here over the latest accounts of air raids that went wrong, causing dozens of civilian casualties.
When such things happen, within an Afghan population deeply traumatized by the Soviet years, there is a quick resort to comparisons of the past occupier with the present one, even though the scale of casualties caused by Western forces — even taking the worst figures compiled by human rights groups — are but a fraction of the abuses committed by the Russians.
For Gen. David D. McKiernan, the American who commands 65,000 foreign troops from 39 nations in Afghanistan, concern over civilian casualties, especially from aircraft-launched bombs and missiles, has become the issue of the moment. Only if it is tackled effectively, senior officers here are now saying, can the hearts and minds of 30 million Afghans — many of them increasingly skeptical about the Western military presence, and angry about the civilian death toll — be won.
The NATO command has been intently focused on the issue since an attack in western Afghanistan on Aug. 22, when an AC-130 gunship mounted a nighttime raid on what the United States intelligence has identified as a meeting of about 30 Taliban fighters with a “high value” Taliban commander. Lethal cannon fire from the aircraft devastated several buildings in the mud-brick village of Azizabad, leaving more civilians dead than Taliban.
A similar pattern, according to Afghan officials and townspeople, was seen Thursday in the Nadali district of Helmand Province, where a coalition airstrike hit three houses sheltering families who had fled a Taliban assault. According to the Afghan accounts, the strike killed between 25 and 30 civilians, most of them women and children. The NATO command acknowledged that an airstrike had taken place and announced there would be an investigation, but said it could not confirm that there had been civilian casualties.
The timing of the airstrike and the ensuing accusations could scarcely have been worse for the NATO command. At the very moment when the Nadali incident was taking place, senior American and British officers were briefing Western aid representatives and reporters in Kabul on a new, more-thorough system for reducing civilian casualties.
“Our military forces are here to protect the civilian population, not to damage them,” said Lt. Gen. Jonathon Riley, the British deputy to General McKiernan, as he and other officers outlined tighter orders for “proportionality, requisite restraint and the utmost discrimination” in the use of firepower, particularly in airstrikes. The directives also call for accurately chronicling — and promptly admitting — when civilians are killed.
“We want to make it an absolute rule that we acknowledge our mistakes when they happen,” said Col. Gordon (Skip) Davis, an American officer who leads a strategic advisory group to General McKiernan. “Regardless of the number of deaths, we’ll come out and say, ‘We’re responsible, we are the ones who did it.’ ” A British colonel, Mike Newman, set out requirements that battlefield commanders report civilian casualties by radio as soon as an engagement is completed and file a fuller account within four hours of returning to base or, at the latest, within 24 hours.
A new unit led by a civilian will monitor the reports, as well as “credible allegations” of civilian deaths from ordinary Afghans, aid agencies and news accounts. Where coalition forces are judged responsible, the command will acknowledge that responsibility, and relatives will be offered “condolence payments” set by the nation whose troops were involved. In the case of Britain and the United States, the standard is a payment of $2,500 for each death and more at the discretion of commanders.
A theme that ran through the Kabul briefing was that the NATO command — in particular General McKiernan, who took command here in June — has concluded that previous approaches to the problem were seriously flawed. For General McKiernan, the realization appears to have come with the Azizabad airstrike.
Initially, he insisted that only five to seven civilians had been killed, and dismissed reports by local residents, Western aid groups and reporters that as many as 90 civilians had died. But 16 days after the attack, amid the storm of anger that arose among Afghans, he ordered a second investigation by a Pentagon-based general. That report, released two weeks ago, said that the dead included about 22 Taliban fighters and 33 civilians, among them at least 3 women and 12 children.
The report concluded that the firepower used at Azizabad was “in self-defense, necessary and proportional.” Nevertheless, one indication that Azizabad had been a wake-up call was an acknowledgment at the Kabul briefing that, until June, statistics on civilian deaths kept by the NATO command were not generally viewed as reliable, even within the command. Now, officers at the briefing said, the system for reporting casualties has been tightened, giving a more authentic sense of how broad the problem is. “We are getting a lot better at capturing the situation,” General Riley said.
According to statistics disclosed at the briefing, 156 civilians have been killed in coalition attacks so far this year, compared with 161 in all of last year. The statistics showed far higher civilian deaths from insurgent attacks, 757 so far this year as opposed to 690 last year. Both sets of figures were dwarfed by the command’s accounting of how many insurgents were killed in combat with coalition troops — 4,282 so far this year and 6,500 last year. But the total for the numbers of civilians killed by coalition forces since the start of 2007 — 317 — was still far below estimates made by some human rights groups.
Last month, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said reports gathered by the organization’s human rights representatives in Kabul showed that 629 civilians had been killed by “progovernment forces” in 2007, and 477 in the first eight months of this year — a total of 1,106. The United Nations figures, however, include people killed by Afghan security forces, while the NATO figures are for those killed by foreign troops only.
General McKiernan has instructed that the new tactical directive issued to field commanders on avoiding civilian casualties apply equally to the NATO and separate American forces he leads. It will not, however, apply to American special forces in Afghanistan, who are not under his command, nor to the 145,000-strong Afghan Army and police force, whose operations have drawn their own harsh criticism from human rights groups.
But the strongest criticism of the new NATO policy has come from those who say a high civilian death toll is inevitable in a war in which NATO commanders with insufficient ground troops must rely heavily on airstrikes. Critics also say the risks are compounded by a reliance on intelligence given by Afghans when choosing targets, because clan, tribe and ethnic rivalries among the Afghans have been identified in some errant bombings as a factor in skewing the intelligence.