Time for an apology

I think it is time for the President and the Secretary Clinton to apologize. Not to any foreign country this time, but to our military men and women. I wrote about this incident and how I feel these inflated numbers by Afghan civilians knowing that they will get a pay out led to the firing of Gen McKiernan here and here.

Emphasis below is mine, and is intended to make the reader notice and think about what is stated.

The American military on Wednesday rejected a claim by the Afghan government that a recent bombing had killed 140 civilians, but acknowledged that between 20 and 30 civilians may have been killed.

The military statement was issued a day after the new American ambassador here, Lieutenant General Karl W. Eikenberry, held a meeting with survivors of the aerial bombing on May 4 in the western province of Farah and promised that coalition forces would change their tactics to prevent civilian casualties in the future.

The military’s statement was the most exhaustive American account of the episode so far. It reflected the deep and emotional disputes surrounding civilian deaths in Afghanistan as American forces prepare to step up a war that President Barack Obama has made a top priority.

The military said it believes that between 60 and 65 Taliban extremists were killed in the fight, far more than the number of civilians. The Afghans say all of those killed were civilians.

The fight began, the military said, when Afghan soldiers and police officers went to several villages in response to reports that three Afghan government officials had been executed by the Taliban. The police, who were "outmanned and outgunned," were quickly overwhelmed and asked for backup from American forces.

In turn, coalition ground forces called in air support – F-18 fighter jets and a B-1 bomber that "provided fire, in coordination with the ground commander, on buildings and a tree grove insurgents were firing from and massing in."

As the fight unfolded, one American Navy corpsman was shot in the shoulder while attempting to rescue a wounded Afghan soldier, and they became trapped by Taliban gunfire. The fighter jets provided "close air support to suppress enemy fire from buildings nearby," the military said. Both men survived. In all, five Afghan police officers were killed.

In what it called "interim findings," the American command said a review of video from aircraft weapon sights and exchanges between air crew and a ground commander had established that Taliban fighters took refuge "in buildings that were targeted in the final strikes of the fight."

Lieutenant Commander Christine Sidenstricker, an American military spokesman, said that a joint delegation of Afghan officials and coalition forces visited the villages shortly after the bombardment and were shown three grave sites – one with four individual graves, one with 22 individual graves, and one mass grave. It was not clear how many people the mass grave contained, she said, with counts of as low as 19 and as high as 69, based on reports by villagers.

"Our investigations indicate the list includes more than civilians who were killed," Commander Sidenstricker said. The military believes the numbers include security forces killed in the battle, as well as the names of people who may be unaccounted for because they fled the village early in the Taliban’s attack, she said.

A count given by residents of the village of Gerani to The New York Times includes 20 men, 28 women, and 38 children under the age of 10. An additional four children had been included on the list but were found in the hospital. Afghans said as many as 50 more were killed in the village of Ganj Abad, but gave no breakdown by gender or age.

The Wednesday statement was based on information from the first delegation as well as a second military investigation, interviews with Afghans in the area and recorded conversations between commanders on the ground and in the air, Commander Sidenstricker said.

As the debate over victims intensified, the NATO-led force said that an airstrike on Tuesday killed eight civilians in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. A NATO statement said militants used the civilians as human shields during the airstrike.

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