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Afghan Civilian Casualties Of NATO Attacks Double
Posted by on April 16th, 2010

From our partners at

By Steve Hynd

Not to say we told you so, but…

Deaths of Afghan civilians by NATO troops have more than doubled this year, NATO statistics show, jeopardizing a U.S. campaign to win over the local population by protecting them against insurgent attacks.

NATO troops accidentally killed 72 civilians in the first three months of 2010, up from 29 in the same period in 2009, according to figures the International Security Assistance Force gave USA TODAY.

Even COIN cheerleaders like Spencer Ackerman see the problem, as McChrystal prepares to start his offensive in Kandahar over local objections. Spencer today:

If Afghan civilians are seeing ISAF troops more and more, and they’re also seeing ISAF troops kill more of their countrymen, then the resultant embitterment is likely to compound, not diminish.

But it has always been the case that more troops in Afghanistan mean more civilian casualties. That was one of the primary arguments against McChrystal's surge when it was proposed last summer.

Will this lead to a rethink by the misguided and conned of their reliance on COIN myths for a strategy? I doubt it.

UPDATE: I was right, there'll be no rethink. But Matt Yglesias nails it:

 if civilian deaths are bad and if increases in civilian deaths are being driven by increases in our operational tempo, then maybe we should reconsider the wisdom of a situation in which it “will increase again this year, owing from Marja and soon Kandahar.” If war is so bad, and inevitably leads to the deaths of innocents, and we want to avoid the deaths of innocents, then shouldn’t we maybe consider not doing this instead of just feeling really sad when it ends up leading to the deaths of innocent people? That’s all I’m saying.

In that respect, it's worth reading this piece at the WaPo in which Eugene Robinson talks to veteran author on Afghanistan, Sebastian Junger about the US withdrawal from the Korengal Valley, where the result has been "five years and 42 lives for three miles of terrain". Junger says:

"The Korengal Valley is sort of the Afghanistan of Afghanistan: too remote to conquer, too poor to intimidate, too autonomous to buy off"

Leaving Robinson wondering:

"How many more will die before we leave the country? And what will we have accomplished?"

That's the question, right enough. I wish those 72 civilians, and all the other dead in Afghanistan, could be given an answer that didn't involve military budget games and Imperial hubris.

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  1. General McChrystal offers public apology for Afghans killed by NATO airstrike. Turkish top military officials arrested over alleged coup plot. US army has contingency plans for delaying Iraq withdrawal. Afghan immigrant admits plans to bomb New York subway. All this and much more, in today’s security briefing.

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