As most Americans sat down to eat a large Thanksgiving feast on Thursday, a U.S. drone attack in Afghanistan left one child dead and two adult women injured as NATO forces claimed they were trying to kill a lone "known militant" riding on a motorbike in Helmand Province.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed outrage. The latest incident of civilian casualties comes as the Obama administration and Karzai government try to settle on terms for a Bilateral Security Agreement designed to lay out the conditions for the continued presence of U.S. military forces in the country after 2014.
Following news of the latest attack and the death of the Afghan child killed by the missile strike, Karzai said, "For as long as such arbitrary acts and oppression of foreign forces continue, the security agreement with the United States will not be signed.”
“This attack shows that American forces are not respecting the life and safety of Afghan people’s houses,” he continued. “For years, our innocent people have become victims of the war under the name of terrorism, and they have had no safety in their homes.”
According to the New York Times, a high-ranking US military commander called Karzai later Thursday to acknowledge the incident:
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, made a late-night phone call to President Karzai on Thursday after the president’s criticism became public. “He talked to President Karzai directly, expressed deep regrets for the incident and any civilian casualties, and promised to convene an immediate joint investigation to determine all the facts of what happened,” a coalition spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with official policy.
Mr. Karzai vowed this week, at the conclusion of a loya jirga, or grand council, that he would cancel the security agreement completely if there was even one more raid that killed civilians.
Responding to the latest development, journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted:
It seems continuing to kill a country's civilians with drones doesn't help in getting them to agree you can stay http://t.co/rfTjyx8lzs
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 29, 2013
And Jason Ditz at Anti-War.com added:
There’s never really a good time to blow up a house-load of civilians, but the Obama Administration seems to find particularly inopportune times to do so, following up a week-long battle with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over extending their occupation by blowing up a home, killing two women and a child within.
President Karzai was quick to condemn the strike is indicative of the US willingness to needlessly endanger civilians in the 12-plus year war, saying he would definitely not sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) unless such strikes stop.
The US has been demanding Karzai sign the BSA by the end of the year, threatening to withdraw if he refuses and even trying to find ways to get it into effect without the Afghan president’s signature.
Karzai, whose final term in office ends in April, insists that the deal should wait until then, and has pressed the US for more concessions, including ending night raids on Afghan civilian homes and releasing Afghan citizens from Guantanamo Bay, as conditions for an early signature. The drone strike just adds one more thing to the list, since apparently the Obama Administration needs it to be spelled out in writing that they’re not allowed to blow up homes.