Answering Questions About Azizabad

by Joshua Foust on 9/2/2008 · 1 comment

The third U.S. investigation of the incident in Shindand has been completed.

A U.S. investigation into U.N. and Afghan allegations that dozens of civilians were killed during an operation in a small village found Tuesday that up to seven civilians died but that the overwhelming majority of the dead were Taliban.

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…

Notice the number of dead creeping upwards. There also still remain several unanswered questions: if photos and video exist, why can’t they be made public? If they reside primarily with Afghan Intelligence, why aren’t they being shared with the Coalition or made public? Oliver North was on-scene—does he have any documentary evidence that Mullah Siddiq was among the dead, or were the dead all employees of Reza’s security firm working at the local FOB?

Most importantly, why, if there remains such an enormous body of uncertain information about the raid, including the Coalition’s weekly revisions of who it killed in what number, were Coalition press representatives so adamant about knowing exactly what happened? This it the kind of IO failure I’m talking about—pushing a line you cannot prove is a losing prospect. Honestly is difficult in these operations, but simply admitting you don’t know exactly how many died but are investigating goes a long way toward building trust in the eventual outcome.

Oh and also not having a split command where a local agency can ferret away potential exculpatory evidence.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 1 comment }

Most Importantly September 3, 2008 at 10:03 am

In the age of mass propaganda by all sides involved in this conflict, who do I believe?

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