Military Admits "Errors" in Civilian Bombing in Afghanistan, But Still Defends the Attacks

The May 4 US bombing
in Farah Province in Afghanistan was reportedly the single worst aerial
attack by US forces since the 2001 invasion began. Afghan sources said
as many as 130-140 civilians were killed. At the time, The New York Timesreported
the attack "could be the largest case of civilian casualties since an
attack on the village of Azizabad in western Afghanistan last year, in
which United Nations officials said there was convincing evidence that
90 civilians were killed." Among the dead, according to the
International Committee of the Red Cross were 13 members of the one family, including a worker for the Red Crescent.

In the immediate aftermath, the Pentagon tried to spin a story
that Taliban fighters used grenades to kill three families to "stage" a
massacre and then blame it on the US. The ICRC passionately rejected
this claim, saying, "We know that those killed included an Afghan Red
Crescent volunteer and 13 members of his family who had been sheltering
from fighting in a house that was bombed in an air strike."

the past month, the US military has been conducting an internal
investigation. It bears remembering that the US track record of
thoroughly "investigating" US massacres is pathetic. The UN said there
was convincing evidence that last year's US attack on the village of
Azizabad killed 90 civilians, but the military only acknowledged 30 civilian deaths.

it seems that the military is once again preparing a "sorta culpa" on
the Farah bombing, which the US military has already said killed an
estimated 20-30 civilians and 65 "Taliban." The New York Timesdetails some findings from a not-yet-released military investigative report on the bombing:

In the report, the investigating officer, Brig. Gen.
Raymond A. Thomas III, analyzed each of the airstrikes carried out by
three aircraft-carrier-based Navy F/A-18 strike aircraft and an Air
Force B-1 bomber against targets in the village of Granai, in a battle
that lasted more than seven hours.

In each case, the [anonymous] senior military official said, General Thomas determined that the targets that had been struck posed legitimate threats to Afghan or American forces, which included one group of Marines assigned to train the Afghans and another assigned to a Special Operations task force.

in "several cases," the official said, General Thomas determined either
that the airstrikes had not been the appropriate response to the threat
because of the potential risk to civilians, or that American forces had
failed to follow their own tactical rules in conducting the bombing


The official said the civilian death toll
would probably have been reduced if American air crews and forces on
the ground had followed strict rules devised to prevent civilian
casualties. Had the rules been followed, at least some of the strikes
by American warplanes against half a dozen targets over seven hours
would have been aborted.

This is a story that should not be forgotten and it should not be
swept under the rug of impunity. The victims of this bombing deserve
justice and there must be accountability for those responsible.

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