Surprise! UN Overstated Afghan Civilian Deaths

An investigation by US military and state department officials has found that the death toll from an attack last month that has soured relations with the Afghan government is far less than either Kabul or the United Nations has claimed.

The government of President Karzai said that 90 "civilians" were killed in the air raid. But the US report shows that number to be
wildly off base:

An Afghan government commission concluded that 90 civilians were killed in the Aug. 22 fighting in Azizabad - a claim backed by a preliminary U.N. report. The U.S. report Tuesday said 30 to 35 of those killed were Taliban fighters.

The civilian death claims in Azizabad has caused new friction between President Hamid Karzai and his Western supporters. Karzai has long castigated Western military commanders over civilian deaths resulting from their raids.

The U.S. report said American and Afghan forces began taking fire from militants as the forces approached Azizabad in the early hours of Aug. 22. The incoming fire "justified use of well-aimed small-arms fire and close air support to defend the combined force," the report said.

The U.S. said its range in casualty numbers was determined by observation of enemy movements during the engagement and on-site observations immediately after the battle. It said a known Taliban commander, Mullah Siddiq, and five to seven civilians were among the dead. Two civilians were wounded. Five Taliban were detained, the report said.

While the report left open the possibility that additional civilians may have been killed or injured, it seems fairly certain that the Afghan government was playing politics with the number of dead while the UN was, as usual, incompetent.

But trying to debunk claims so long after the fact will be a tough row to hoe for US officials. The attack has angered the tribes in the region (some of whom are Taliban sympathizers anyway) while putting a damper on further air operations that might be necessary to interdict Taliban inflitration from Pakistan.

So what should have been seen as a very successful strike against the Taliban is instead viewed as  PR disaster for NATO. Meanwhile, the Taliban continues to sneak across the border with the tacit acceptance of the Pakistani government. And there doesn't seem to be the will or the desire to curtail this activity any time soon.
An investigation by US military and state department officials has found that the death toll from an attack last month that has soured relations with the Afghan government is far less than either Kabul or the United Nations has claimed.

The government of President Karzai said that 90 "civilians" were killed in the air raid. But the US report shows that number to be
wildly off base:

An Afghan government commission concluded that 90 civilians were killed in the Aug. 22 fighting in Azizabad - a claim backed by a preliminary U.N. report. The U.S. report Tuesday said 30 to 35 of those killed were Taliban fighters.

The civilian death claims in Azizabad has caused new friction between President Hamid Karzai and his Western supporters. Karzai has long castigated Western military commanders over civilian deaths resulting from their raids.

The U.S. report said American and Afghan forces began taking fire from militants as the forces approached Azizabad in the early hours of Aug. 22. The incoming fire "justified use of well-aimed small-arms fire and close air support to defend the combined force," the report said.

The U.S. said its range in casualty numbers was determined by observation of enemy movements during the engagement and on-site observations immediately after the battle. It said a known Taliban commander, Mullah Siddiq, and five to seven civilians were among the dead. Two civilians were wounded. Five Taliban were detained, the report said.

While the report left open the possibility that additional civilians may have been killed or injured, it seems fairly certain that the Afghan government was playing politics with the number of dead while the UN was, as usual, incompetent.

But trying to debunk claims so long after the fact will be a tough row to hoe for US officials. The attack has angered the tribes in the region (some of whom are Taliban sympathizers anyway) while putting a damper on further air operations that might be necessary to interdict Taliban inflitration from Pakistan.

So what should have been seen as a very successful strike against the Taliban is instead viewed as  PR disaster for NATO. Meanwhile, the Taliban continues to sneak across the border with the tacit acceptance of the Pakistani government. And there doesn't seem to be the will or the desire to curtail this activity any time soon.