Probe into civilian Afghan deaths blames human error

Last Updated: Saturday, May 29, 2010 - 20:32

Kabul: Human error was blamed on Saturday for a
missile and rocket attack by US forces on vehicles in war-torn
Afghanistan that resulted in the death of 23 civilians, a
military statement said.

The incident on February 21 sparked widespread anger
at the presence of international troops in Afghanistan, and an
apology from the commander of NATO forces in the country, US
General Stanley McChrystal.

McChrystal has made it a tenet of his
counter-insurgency strategy in fighting a Taliban insurgency
that civilian casualties be kept to a minimum.

The report found that a convoy of "three vehicles
carrying more than 30 civilians were mistaken for an insurgent
convoy and engaged by coalition aircraft".

The mistake was made in analysing images taken by
unmanned drones, it said.

Information that the vehicles were carrying anything
other than civilians -- rather than militants racing to
reinforce Taliban engaged in battle nearby -- was "ignored or
downplayed", it said.

"The ground force commander lacked a clear
understanding of who was in the vehicles, the location,
direction of travel and likely course of action of those

"Poorly functioning higher headquarters command posts
failed to provide the ground force commander with the evidence
and analysis that the vehicles were not a hostile threat," it

Citing "several shortcomings in training,
communication and decision-making," the ISAF statement said
McChrystal had reprimanded four senior and two junior

The incident, in an area of central Daykundi province
that was carved out of Uruzgan province, killed four women and
a child, and was the third such mistaken bombing raid in
Afghanistan in a week.

McChrystal`s apology to President Hamid Karzai in
person, and to the Afghan people in a televised broadcast, was
swift but failed to quell deep concern over civilian deaths
and injuries in the ongoing war against the Taliban.

Civilian casualties are an incendiary issue in
Afghanistan, and are often used by Karzai and the Taliban
alike for political ends, even though most are caused by the

The United Nations said in a report that the number of
civilians killed in the Afghan war jumped last year to 2,412,
making 2009 the deadliest year for ordinary Afghans since the
US-led invasion.


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First Published: Saturday, May 29, 2010 - 20:32

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