Hundreds of Afghan civilians killed as US seeks to protect its troops

By Andrew Gumbel
22 July 2002

American military forces have killed hundreds of
civilians in Afghanistan in recent months because they
have preferred to rely on the flawed intelligence of
warlords than risk casualties among their forces on
the ground, according to a survey in yesterday's New
York Times.

The survey, based on research by the non-profit
organisation Global Exchange, counted more than 800
civilians killed. The number is likely to rise as the
ongoing survey extends into more remote villages from
the 11 centres inspected so far.

What differentiates the Afghan campaign from previous
US military engagements is that the civilians,
increasingly, have not been caught up in strikes on
legitimate targets or killed as a result of bombs
going astray ? what in military parlance is known as
"collateral damage". Rather they have been
deliberately targeted by precision bombers acting on
flawed instructions from their superiors.

The sense of unease at the continuing campaign to
uproot Taliban and al-Qa'ida fighters reached a head
earlier this month when airstrikes on the village of
Kakrak, in Oruzgan province, targeted two engagement
parties. Local officials counted 54 dead, most of them
women and children, and at least 120 wounded.

Afghanistan's foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah,
said his government needed more say in how targets are
selected. "If things do not improve," he said, "I will
certainly pray for the Americans and wish them
success, but I will no longer be able to take part in


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