“We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions,” said General David. H. Petraeus, Commander of International Security Assistance Force. “These deaths should have never happened and I will personally apologize to President Karzai when he returns from his trip to London this week.”
I wonder where in the COIN manual it talks about misleading the public on civilian casualties and inventing claims of child abuse to justify it? Anyway, last week, Petraeus was singing a different tune about where these mysterious dead children come from.
To the shock of President Hamid Karzai’s aides, Gen. David H. Petraeus suggested Sunday at the presidential palace that Afghans caught up in a coalition attack in northeastern Afghanistan might have burned their own children to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties, according to two participants at the meeting.
Oh well. His spokesman, Rear Admiral Greg Smith, later clarified that what Petraeus really meant to say was that he thought most Afghan parents burn their own children as a means of enforcing discipline. Also, ISAF troops began to harass and in one case detain journalists trying to reach the area to report on it. So, clearly that’s better.
This might even be relieving as a break from the normal pattern. :
- Deny all wrongdoing
- Shift the blame to someone else, whether Taliban or parents.
- Claim to have documentary evidence that exonerates all ISAF soldiers.
- Harass and detain journalists seeking an independent source on the event.
- Finally, after days or weeks of investigations, admit to a lower number of dead civilians and hope the issue goes away.
This pattern has taken place at least a dozen times since I first began following Afghanistan closely in 2006. If it weren’t so damned predictable it would be shocking, or something. But instead, it’s just expected. ISAF—and in particular General Petraeus—is really blowing it on this stuff.
And here’s the thing: that original event remains unresolved. Petraeus made his comments on an event in Ghaziabad; the current apology mentions Dara-i Pech, near FOB Blessing. These are separate events, both in Kunar, both horrifying to think about. ISAF needs to do a helluva lot more apologizing.