NATO Commanders on Afghan Civilian Deaths: Rockets “Hit Their Intended Target”

By Craig Considine  

As I highlighted in a previous article, this past weekend two NATO HIMARS rockets intended for hostile Taliban fire hit a home in Marjah and killed 12 civilians – 10 of which were of one family, 6 of which were children. 
The day after the story leaked, McChrystal and NATO commanders said that the HIMARS rockets ‘misfired’ by up to 300 meters.  They sent their apologies to the Afghan people.  The whole operation was deemed a regrettable ‘mistake’ and one of the ‘unfortunate consequences of war.’
Then the story has taken a turn for the worse, as Major General Nick Carter of Great Britain said that the rockets did not malfunction, that they did indeed hit their intended target, and added that the HIMARS system is now back in use after being temporarily suspended.  He said that the original ’conflicting reports’ - that the rockets misfired – were not true and that the story got lost somewhere in ‘the fog of war.’
This revelation comes as no surprise, as killing civilians has become commonplace in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.  But Carter’s remarks are worrisome for those who take the stated goals of Operation Mushtarak – to protect innocent civilians – literally.  The Coalition, after all, has continuously stressed that protecting civilians is the chief concern and top priority of the entire mission.  
Carter told the BBC today that it was absolutely unacceptable to have civilian casualties, whatever the circumstances, and that announcing the offensive well in advance had helped save lives.
So with all that in mind, how and why did 6 children and 6 others die over the weekend?  ‘Absolutely unacceptable to have civilian casualties, whatever the circumstances’ means that your soldiers are not willing to take the risk of killing innocent civilians at any cost, even if it means their own lives are in serious risk in front of enemy fire.
Bring yourself back to the situation when the HIMARS rockets were fired.  NATO and Afghan forces had identified a building – a house – where enemy fire was coming from.  To quell that threat, they launched two missiles and had a direct hit.  The soldiers were not thinking about who may have been in the building.  They were concerned with their own well-being and survival.  All they knew was that there was fire coming from that building and that had to be dealt with. 
I also raised this point in a past entry, that the dropping of leaflets warning the Afghan people was essentially a move to cover-up any potential crimes.  It is equal to pulling the ’sorry, but we told you we were coming’ card if civilians had not left the area but had perished.  This trick also allows the Coalition forces to masquerade behind their propaganda – that they actually care about the Afghan people, but when in fact, all they really care about is protecting their own interests – like killing ‘the bad guys’ and insuring that their gas pipeline is not messed with. 
When the HIMARS rockets were fired, I wouldn’t be surprised if the soldiers didn’t even think twice about who may have been in that house.  After all, the Coalition had dropped the leaflets, so they were ‘covered’ if any civilians were killed.  This is the same thing as having insurance on your house – something goes wrong, it burns down - don’t you worry – you are covered (even if it means you lost a few things in the process). 
With Carter’s recent claim that the missiles ‘hit their target’, we know that the Coalition forces are willing to kill civilians, even if it means taking out just one militant.  This is the exact policy the CIA and the JSOC have taken with its drone strikes in tribal areas of Pakistan.
This article originally appeared on the blog of Craig Considine
Main Iraq NATO Commanders on Afghan Civilian Deaths: Rockets “Hit Their Intended Target”


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