Afghanistan: McChrystal Does Damage Control As Anger Rises After 90 Killed In NATO Air-Strike

Latest updates: 9/5/2009 at 11:00 AM ( US PST):

Today, General McChrystal made the unprecedented decision of appearing on Afghan TV, to address the Afghan people directly. He also went to visit the site of the attack as NATO began an investigation.

“As commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), nothing is more important than the safety and protection of the Afghan people. I take this possible loss of life or injury to innocent Afghans very seriously,” said McChrystal.

The European Union has publicly criticized the attack saying it undermines effort of nation-building in Afghanistan. French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner stated:“This was a big mistake, we have to look into this and denounce those responsible.”

Earlier on Friday:

The air-strike took place before dawn today, in the area of Kunduz, after two gasoline trucks were hijacked by the Taliban. NATO claimed, at first, that most victims were Taliban fighters. According to the German army, based in Kunduz, 56 Taliban were killed in the attack. However, other sources says that around 40 civilians were also killed while siphoning gas from the trucks, and dozens more suffered serious injuries according to local hospitals (see photo).

This serious incident could not have come at a worse time for NATO & the United States while they are trying to justify their presence in Afghanistan. The issue of civilian casualties is a thorn in the relationship between the Karzai government and the Western powers, and also a major source of public anger, both in Afghanistan &  Pakistan, towards the foreign forces.

The air-strike also came as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown delivered a speech calling the Western strategy against the insurgents in Afghanistan “flawed”, but yet stating that it was essential to suppress worldwide terrorism threats. Regardless of Gordon Brown’s speech, a majority of  the British public opinion is no longer buying this argument. On Thursday, another blow came for Gordon Brown’s push to keep British forces in Afghanistan in the form of the resignation of Eric Joyce. Joyce, a key adviser to UK Defense Secretary Ainsworth, gave his resignation over the war in Afghanistan.

“I do not think the public will accept for much longer that our losses can be justify by simply referring to the risk of greater terrorism on our streets,” wrote Joyce in his resignation letter.

Yesterday, at the Pentagon Defense Secretary Gates &  Admiral Mike Mullen held a press conference. They stated that they are still reviewing General McChrystal’s report, and working on their respective notes for President Obama.  Robert Gates reiterated the very old argument, used countless time by the Bush administration to justify staying  in Iraq, of saying that  “the enemies of America remain in Afghanistan, and the United States must stay there to defeat the terrorists”. Meanwhile, Admiral Mullen was a lot more honest and candid in stating that “time is not on our side”. Admiral Mullen & General McChrystal are fully aware that they are running out of time to turn the situation around in Afghanistan.

As opposition to the war in Afghanistan is rapidly growing, not only in Europe but also in the United States, the Western coalition should be aware that if there is no sign of significant improvements within  the next 12 to 18 months, the talks will not be about the “achievable success” mentioned by General McChrystal but about defining a sound and effective exit strategy.


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