Karzai’s Cousin

by Joshua Foust on 3/10/2011 · 4 comments

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.


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– 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 Registan.net. 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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{ 4 comments }

doyle March 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Seems as though these things have a habit of popping up when the timing couldn’t be worse.

Ed March 10, 2011 at 7:01 pm

A sick tactic by Nato and allies…when the president of Afghanistan speaks out against killing civilians the west responds with another kill…charging Mehmut Karzai in US, twisting the ears of other Karzai family members, trying to link Karzai with drugs and corruption, manipulating election and bribing opposition, Killing Afghan civilians and planting stories in times to pressure President Karzai are not enough so this most likely is another cheap shot. I agree with fmr. Defense Secretary the Obama administration is making a mistake to alienate Karzai with its propaganda. I hope the world allows(especially neighbors and west) allows Afghans to live without be used as proxies or their lands as a battleground for evil adventures. I cannot name one Afghan that has killed in Europe or America but I can name thousands killed by Nato, Pakistan and Iran. Clearly, imperialists minded powers value an Afghan’s life less than of their own, SAD!!

unknown March 11, 2011 at 2:56 am

or did you ever think that MAYBE the news doesn’t have all the facts? What if it was a situation where the individual pointed his weapon at the troops or even opened fire first and was killed in return fire? In that case the troops were just doing their jobs and protecting themselves.

Steve Magribi March 11, 2011 at 5:47 am

There is really no words to express what a mistake this is. Such an obvious mistake. A night raid in Karz Dand District. A night raid that essentially targeted a relative of the President in one of the most Taliban free districts in the Kandahar Region. A night raid in the most pro Government village in nearly all of Afghanistan. A night raid in a place that after ten years we should know like the back of our hands.

There are no words to express it.

“What were they thinking?” nope not good enough.

“How could they even enter the compound without knowing who was in there after ten years?” not even.

“The final nail in the coffin of Petraeus’ terrible terrible reputation amongst nearly all sectors of the Afghan population” getting warmer.

“The ultimate blunder for the night raid assassination policy touted as the be all and end all for this insurgency when mixed with Drone Raids accross the border.” a bit closer.

Hard to imagine such a super sized step backward in all respects. Hard to imagine. Wracking my brain for the correct description. Wracking my brain, the words won’t come out quite correctly.

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