Haji Yar Muhammad Khan was shot dead outside his home in Dand District of Kandahar during a raid by NATO troops. Details about what happen will remain sketchy for a while, but he seems to have been caught outside his house carrying a weapon. The troops conducting the raid thought he was a threat, so they killed him.
This raises many questions. It is not unusual to walk around armed in a place like Dand—that is how one defends himself against bandits, thugs, Taliban, and yes, NATO troops. It is not clear if the NATO troops warned Khan to put his weapon down before shooting, or if he was shot without warning. NATO apparently believed they were going after a Taliban commander of some sort, though it’s up in the air as to how carefully they evaluated the decision to launch a raid into Hamid Karzai’s hometown.
There is always the possibility that new data will emerge that makes this all seem understandable, however tragic. But that does not happen very often. Sadly, the pattern with these incidents is that NATO troops acted on bad data, or didn’t know how to analyze the data they had, or didn’t have enough data. I really hope that is not the case. The timing for this death could not be worse, as it comes right after a crescendo of criticism about civilian casualties. Afghan-U.S. relations—and especially Karzai-Petraeus relations—are at an all-time low because of this, and killing a relative of the President (even unintentionally) will only make things worse.