Things are not going well for the Obama administration in Afghanistan, and the only good news for the White House is that almost no one in the United States seems to be paying attention.
Supposedly precision strikes by the US air force against the militant Haqqani Network in Khost province in the south of the country appear to have gone awry and killed 10 civilians. Errant fighter-jet and drone strikes that kill civilians is the number one complaint of Afghans against the growing US military presence, and this incident will further fan the flames of that fuel.
The USG Open Source Center translated an article about the innocent civilians being mistakenly bombarded, which appeared in the Afghan Islamic Press in Pashto on Saturday June 19. It claims not 10 dead but 20.
Khost, 19 June: A bombardment has inflicted heavy civilian casualties.
Last night, from 18 to 19 June, foreign aircraft bombarded some villages in Mosakhel District of Khost Province, inflicting civilian casualties.
The Khost security commander, Abdol Hakim Ishaqzai, told Afghan Islamic Press in this regard that foreign aircraft had bombarded Mosakhel District during an operation, as a result of which five civilians were killed. The security commander confirmed that women and children were also among the killed people.
On the other hand, the head of the provincial council in Khost, Mohammad Shafiq Mojahed, told Afghan Islamic Press about civilian casualties that based on his primary information, six civilians had been killed and four others wounded in the bombardments. He added that the bombardments continued by the foreign aircraft this morning as well, but he did not know why the foreign aircraft bombarded the area.
The ISAF press office in Khost told Afghan Islamic Press that the foreign aircraft had dropped only one bomb on a military training centre of the Taleban in the area, which inflicted no casualties to civilians.
While the NATO press office denies civilian casualties, a resident of Mosakhel District, Hazrat Wali, told Afghan Islamic Press this afternoon that at least 20 civilians had been killed and 16 others wounded in the bombardments. Speaking angrily to the Afghan Islamic Press, Hazrat Wali added “The aircraft started bombardments on four villages in the areas of Madar, Tishanki, Lezhagi and Khairi at 2200 (local time; 1730 gmt) while the helicopters still fly over the area.”
He said: “We have taken 20 bodies from under debris so far. The killed include women, children and old people who are all civilians and there are no Taleban among them.”
Giving more details, Hazrat Wali said: “We took five dead bodies from under debris in Madar village, four of whom were children and one of them was a woman. We also took seven bodies out of debris in Tishanki village, three bodies in Khairi village and four bodies in Lezhagi village. Also, a young kid who was running away from the bombardment near Lezhagi village was martyred.”
Hazrat Wali further said that 16 wounded people had also been taken out of debris in these villages and taken to nearby health centres in the area for treatment.
Regarding the current situation in the area, he said: “Some people have packed their belongings and escaped to different directions. They do not know where to go and do not know why they were bombarded.”
The Taleban have not commented on the incident.
(Description of Source: Peshawar Afghan Islamic Press in Pashto — Peshawar Afghan Islamic Press in Pashto — Peshawar-based agency, staffed by Afghans, that describes itself as an independent “news agency” but whose history and reporting pattern reveal a perceptible pro-Taliban bias; the AIP’s founder-director, Mohammad Yaqub Sharafat, has long been associated with a mujahidin faction that merged with the Taliban’s “Islamic Emirate” led by Mullah Omar; subscription required to access content; http://www.afghanislamicpress.com)
More bad news. On Sunday, two bombs rocked the provincial city of Lashkar Gah, killing 3 and wounding 23 other civilians. A bank and a school were the two targets.
The reason these bombings are bad news is that Lashkar Gah is the capital of Helmand province and is the city from which the Marjah campaign of this winter-spring was launched. Bombings in Lashkar Gah are a worrisome sign that the Marjah campaign did not entirely succeed. (That Marjah was not the success it was ballyhooed to be was first recognized by the McClatchy wire service reporters, who have consistently been ahead of the curve in both Afghanistan and Iraq.)
And then to cap it all off, the UN came out with a report this weekend that reveals that the number of suicide bombings has doubled in 2010 as opposed to 2009. And, the number of assassinations is also up, to one a day.