This week, I wrote a brief piece for The Columbia Journalism Review discussing different media groups covering an air strike in Takhar province. Some things about it didn’t sit right with me (and still don’t), but a few more details have emerged that bear exploring.
The first and most important: ISAF probably killed an IMU figure named Mohammed Amin. The Long War Journal remains the only non-ISAF media organization I can find who names this guy, but ISAF recently put out a presser that identified him in passing while referring to some other activity in nearby Dasht-e Qaleh (which could actually be really good news, if they’re able to push back some of the IMU’s resurgence in the north—a continuing worry for this blog).
So it’s probably not ISAF spin that a previously unremarkable IMU figure by the name of Mohammed Amin got killed in Takhar this week. What’s weird is, I think that leaves my initial worry largely intact. I was concerned a few days ago that this air strike presented one of two uncomfortable conclusions: either ISAF had really bad intel or a parliamentary candidate was so close to insurgents he couldn’t be meaningfully distinguished before an air strike. I think those two conclusions remain relatively unchanged. To wit:
- Who was in that convoy? Were they election workers with a single IMU figure?
- Why was that IMU figure without his own entourage, or was his importance inflated?
- Was the convoy in fact an IMU entourage, and Khurasani, the candidate for parliament, was traveling with them? If so, why?
- Why haven’t other news organizations reporting on the incident, all of whom have access to high level ISAF officials, reported the identity of the IMU figure, Mohammed Amin? Is his identity important, and can we know?
… and so on, for example, etc. Only, ISAF is really digging in its heels on this IMU fellow. They’re still not addressing the civilian casualties angle, however, and this is where I get really worried. During the Shindand incident in 2008, for example, they did indeed kill some insurgents… they just also happened to kill a lot more civilians. I’m not sure a no-name IMU leader in a podunk province is worth killing as many potentially innocent people as seem to have died here.
Then again, if the people who died were not innocent—if, in fact, the governors of Rostaq and Takhar, long with this candidate for Parliament, were lying about or unaware of the true identities and allegiances of the people in that convoy… well, we’re in trouble if that’s the case.
The frustrating thing is, we still don’t know. And we probably won’t without a lot more investigation… and no one in Afghanistan seems terribly interested in doing so. What a damned shame.