KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- To many Afghans, the saga of the four Canadian soldiers who died in a training exercise near Kandahar sounds all too familiar. They've been through the sequence many times before: the Americans drop bombs, the Americans kill the wrong people, the Americans apologize and the Americans promise an investigation.
The investigations rarely lead anywhere and many Afghans have grown deeply cynical about their "liberators." The list of so-called friendly fire incidents involving Afghans during the past six months is long.
The first was the mistaken bombing of the Red Cross/Red Crescent headquarters in Kabul during the early phases of the air war to root out the Taliban regime. Since then, errant bombs and missiles have hit Afghan forces working with the U.S.-led coalition several times, including a mistaken attack in Kandahar in December that lightly wounded the country's interim leader, Hamid Karzai. In late December, U.S. planes hit a convoy near Khost, killing dozens of Afghans, including tribal leaders on their way to Mr. Karzai's inauguration in Kabul.
Even more infamous is the attack in Orozgun province on Jan. 23, which left at least 16 Afghans dead, and which the Americans have since admitted was a special-forces operation gone awry.
So when news rippled through Kandahar that four Canadians had been killed by another errant American missile, residents only shook their heads.
"It's not good. The Americans, they do whatever they want, kill whoever they want and it doesn't matter," said rickshaw driver Taimoor, who like many Afghans uses only one name.
Some have a warning for Canadians expecting to find out what really happened last week when an F-16 dropped a 250-kilogram bomb on Canadians conducting a training exercise. "Do not believe them. The Americans always say they will investigate, but never do," said Gul Ahmed, who sells Polaroid photographs in Kandahar.
Such cynicism is perhaps understandable. The number of Afghans killed during the U.S. "war on terrorism" has yet to be tallied, but it ranges from several hundred into the thousands.
The Orozgun incident stands out in the minds of many here. In January, a U.S. special-forces team descended on two compounds in the town of Hazar Qadam, believing they had discovered a cell of Taliban fighters. Instead, they attacked allies of Mr. Karzai. At least 16 Afghans were killed in the raid -- some of them, according to witnesses, killed execution-style or shot in their beds as they slept. More than 25 were taken prisoner. A few weeks later, after journalists visited the site, the Pentagon admitted the Americans had hit the wrong people.
© 2002 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc