One of the more confusing aspects of the air strike at Azizabad (a name that is disturbingly close to an official cable news hype-the-scandal animated graphic) is the snippets of evidence that the compound hit, and the men killed inside, despite being written off as Taliban militants, had badges to work at the nearby U.S. base. Locals had even complained of this, saying that the tragedy was not just that innocent people died but that the U.S. killed one of its own collaborators.
Now Hamid Karzai’s spokesman is claiming that is exactly what happened, and that not a single Taliban fighter was killed in the strike.
The operation, conducted by U.S. Special Forces and Afghan soldiers, targeted Afghan employees of a British security firm and their family members — the reason the U.S. military recovered weapons after the battle, Hamidzada said.
The U.S. has said its forces were fired on first during a raid that targeted and killed a known militant commander named Mullah Sidiq. But villagers say their homes were targeted because of false information provided by a rival tribesman named Nader Tawakil.
An Afghan parliamentarian has said Tawakil is in the protective custody of U.S. forces. The coalition has declined to comment.
“How the information was gathered, how it was misfed, and their personal animosity led to trying to use the international forces for their own political disputes, which led to a disastrous event and caused a strain on the relationship of the Afghan government and international forces,” Hamidzada said.
“Not a single Talib was killed,” he added. “So it was a total disaster, and it made it even worse when there were denials, total denials.”
The U.S. at first said that 30 militants and no civilians were killed. A formal military investigation found that the operation killed up to 35 militants and seven civilians.
But after video images showing at least 10 dead children and up to 40 other dead villagers surfaced last week, the U.S. said it would send a one-star general from the United States to investigate the strike.
Christian, though subtly poking people like me who focus on the communications aspect of this incident, raises a vital point:
Many of them may lack a formal education, they may even be illiterate. They may have never been outside of Afghanistan, save perhaps some time spent in a refugee camp in Pakistan or Iran. They may remain silent, saying little or nothing at all. They may feign ignorance. They might just concur with everything that you say. They might not even be visible, instead operating through proxies.
But never assume that you are smarter than anyone in this country. Your education does not count for much here. The social cues you are accustomed to watch for are very different here. There have been cases of “simple villagers and peasants” deceiving anthropologists who lived amongst them for as long as a year. Comparatively speaking, a US Army officer is easy “prey” for deception by men such as Nadir Tawakal.
He posts an al-Jazeera segment of the site, in which the claim is repeated.
It is worth repeating that this still doesn’t mean 90 innocents died there. In all likelihood, the U.S. counted or estimated the number of dead pretty accurately, it just got their identity wrong. Which is still a big deal, but it’s not nearly the scale that Karzai’s shills are screaming about.
In case you didn’t already groan and roll your eyes, I officially apologize for the pun.